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PROFILE: UC Kitchens Extend Worldwide Education For Executive Chef

Aramark Executive Chef Philippe Audax serves up those savory meals at Mick and Mack’s. He has also served in the White House and as a paratrooper in the French military and says he has the scar to prove it!

Date: 1/3/2005 7:59:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
Philippe Audax

Philippe Audax says he was raised in the kitchen. His father was a private chef for the governor of Paris. His uncle, he says, is a private chef for Chanel – as in the perfume manufacturer – in Paris. His mother formerly ran the Grand Hotel Paris. So when it was time for him to go to college, he knew what his calling was, if not where it would lead him.

Audax, who now lives in Loveland, is Aramark Executive Chef at the University of Cincinnati and creates the menus at Mick & Mack’s Contemporary Café, located in Tangeman University Center. The table service restaurant features more upscale dining than the typical campus restaurant, with white linen tablecloths and a great view of McMicken Commons. Menu selections vary from sandwiches to salmon, at prices ranging from seven to fourteen dollars. Soups and desserts are all homemade and prepared fresh daily.

Philippe Audax

Audax says Mick & Mack’s offers people a dining experience comparable to what they might find downtown or at finer restaurants on the outskirts of campus. “That way, if you have a business meeting, you can bring your client here instead of traveling off campus. We work to adapt to everyone and their needs.” Audax also prepares the menus and the food at the special UC occasions held at the home of UC President Nancy L. Zimpher.

At age 18, Audax graduated from L'École Hôtelière de Paris. “We had a wooden stove (at the school) so we would arrive for work at 7:30 in the morning and get wood. Their attitude was, ‘If you can make it with this old thing, you can make it with anything.’ I still whip cream by hand, which is the way I was taught.”

After graduation, Audax signed up for military service, a requirement in France. He was drafted in the early 80s. “I thought if I told them I was a cook, I’d end up on the front line, peeling potatoes in Germany. So, I said nothing and signed up for the paratroopers, but I didn’t know I was going to be drafted or that I was going to be flying, so that was a surprise.” Six months after training, Audax was a paratrooper with the Allies in Beirut. “I was over there for about eight months. I was even shot in the head. I still have the scar.”

Philippe Audax

When it was time to return to his career in the kitchen, Audax revisited France briefly before accepting a culinary internship at the White House under the Reagan administration in 1984. He later worked in restaurants in Bermuda and Boston before launching a career in Cincinnati that included serving at what is now the Riverview Revolving Restaurant in Covington, teaching at Culinary Sol, and opening the new Five Seasons Country Club in Mason-Montgomery.

He says that while he loved running the country club, it was a 24-hour job, and holidays were just another work day in the restaurant business. Audax says he was missing time at home with his wife and daughter, and so when he saw a newspaper ad from UC for an executive chef, he was intrigued.

“At the time, I had absolutely no idea about what campus dining was about. I was thinking this involved cafeteria food. Then, I interviewed with Aramark at MarketPointe, and I started getting really excited about the project of planning Mick & Mack’s.” Audax started working at UC in September 2003.

Audax says he loves the diversity and the social environment at UC. “Here, there is all the life and the energy of young people. That is what I really like. If you get tired, they just lift you up.”

Audax also developed the concept for the Mick & Mack’s Wine Tasting Club, which meets on the first Thursday of each month. The Jan. 6 wine tasting will feature selections from around the world. Club members also get a 10-percent discount when they dine at Mick & Mack’s.

So, what advice does this fabulous food talent have for the cook who wants to bud out of the microwave chef routine? “Invest in good knives. That’s a prerequisite.”