José Monje knew Jean Leon: They got to know each other a short time after Monje was appointed maître d’ of the restaurant Via Veneto. They understood one another and Leon even ended up telling Monje some stories and secrets that have now become obsolete. The owner of one of Barcelona’s most exclusive restaurants reveals a bit more about Jean Leon for us.
What kind of relationship did you have with Jean Leon?
It was a customer-professional relationship. If he came in for dinner and his guests were late, I was always fortunate enough to get a chance to chat with him. He told me lots of stories about how he decided to travel to the USA and how he managed to make himself famous and respected in that country. The reality is that he made a lot of sacrifices to achieve his goals.
Do you remember the first day you met each other?
I couldn’t tell you when it was exactly, but we began to get to know one another when I was given the position of maître d’ at Via Veneto. That was around two years after I arrived at the restaurant.
What did you think the first day you met him?
I already had some ideas, and I thought he would be an unapproachable person. But that couldn’t be further from the truth in the end. He was a very approachable person and was always ready to answer any question. We talked a lot and he told me things I can’t remember, but I do remember they gave me goosebumps.
Was he a visionary?
He was very smart and always went one step further. He was always thinking about the future. He always knew what he was doing and had everything under control.
Was he an epicure?
Very much so! He wasn’t a difficult customer at all. He looked after himself.
How would you define his lifestyle?
He had a very “busy” lifestyle (laughs). He never stopped. He had the ability to go to bed very late and at 6 am he would be up already. His lifestyle was very intense.
Why do you think he achieved everything he set out to?
Because he was a very smart person. He knew what he wanted and he had a knack for knowing what to do so he could reap the benefits in future.
What do you think of the legacy he left behind?
He left behind a wonderful legacy. It’s very valuable because he really put so much into achieving it. He also made the right decision in choosing the Torres family to manage the winery. It’s undoubtedly the best wine house in Catalonia to maintain and enhance the prestige and name of Jean Leon.