Tourondel is the chef and owner of the rapidly multiplying BLT chain of eateries: BLT Steak, BLT Prime, BLT Fish, BLT Burger, and BLT Market, among others.
Born and raised in rural France, Tourondel attended culinary school in his native country and cooked his way through a stint in the French army, serving as chef to an admiral. Following a turn serving up food at the London gentleman's club Boodles, he headed to New York, where he held down various jobs at restaurants and catering companies, later returning to France to train under superchefs Jacques Maxim and Claude Troisgros. In the mid-1990s, Troisgros dispatched him to the U.S. to oversee things at his Gramercy restaurant C.T. He earned rave reviews but soon left Troisgros's employ to work as head chef of Las Vegas's Palace Court. (He earned a Best New Chef nod from Food & Wine in 1998.) A year later, Tourondel returned to New York to man the stove at the three-star Upper East Side seafood spot Cello. After the restaurant was shuttered, he spent a year traveling the world, then in 2004 he opened BLT Steak on 57th Street. As you might have guessed, the letters have nothing to do with the sandwich: B is for Bistro, L is for Laurent, and T is for Tourondel. Yet at the rate he's expanding, it's perfectly conceivable there will soon be a BLT BLT. However, in 2010 controversy brewed when Tourondel and his business partner Jimmy Haber split, but in 2011 Tourondel officially was awarded the BLT name. [Image via Getty]