(CNN) — When Jean-Georges Vongerichten landed in NYC in 1986, he knew he had found his home after a visit to Chinatown. It was at the markets and street vendors where he fell in love with the ingredients reminiscent of his time spent in Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong that would become the hallmark of his signature exotic style fused with his native French roots.
A country boy born and raised in Alsace, France, Vongerichten eschewed plans of taking over his family's multi-generational business after a life-changing meal when a teen at a three-starred Michelin restaurant as a teenager that would lure him into the world of fine dining. His first restaurant, JoJo, opened in 1991 to instant acclaim in tandem with his "French Connection" counterparts, Daniel Boulud and Jacques Torres, who refer to him as "The Magician." It's that magic that helped him launch an empire under his flagship Jean-Georges, which now includes over 30 restaurants globally and three restaurants with Michelin stars.