Le San Souci may be gone for good

By Linda Bentley | July 30, 2008

CAVE CREEK – Last week we received an e-mail from a reader saying, “We regret that Monsieur Louis Germain has shuttered San Souci. As a local presence for many years, we ask you to consider a longer than usual story about a very fine restaurateur.”

sansouciThat afternoon, a Grubb&Ellis sign indicating the property was “available” seemed to confirm the news.

Germain, who was born in Switzerland, began preparing for a career as an outstanding chef in 1943 in Mirabeau Montana Vermala, Switzerland. He later trained in Paris, France with his mentor George Marin at the restaurant Plaza Athe’nee’.

In 1958, Germain opened Chez Louis, Scottsdale’s first French restaurant, which he operated for 30 years before selling it in 1988.

Sonoran News columnist Becky Fenger remembers dining at Chez Louis often and still raves about what a fine restaurant it was.

Germain’s success was based on a fine presentation of fresh fish and vegetables delivered and prepared the same day.

Fenger also became a great fan of Germain’s new restaurant in Cave Creek, which he opened in the mid 1990s after purchasing Dr. Martin Chattman’s former Cave Creek Road home and transforming it into Le San Souci (French for care free) Restaurant where it stands today.

She said Germain was so debonair and gracious as a host, and well-known for kissing women’s hands as she relayed what a columnist had written about him, “A socialite driving down Scottsdale Road stuck her hand out to make a left turn and Louis kissed it.”

hinesReminiscing about a time in the late 70s, when Earl “Fatha” Hines, the late jazz pianist great, was appearing at a club in Scottsdale, Fenger said she and a friend knew Hines loved strawberries and they called Germain to make a strawberry desert for him.

Germain not only accommodated their request, he personally delivered the strawberry desert to Hines.

Courtney Auther from Grubb&Ellis confirmed the restaurant and property are both for sale, which she said was a difficult decision for Germain and his wife.

She stated there were several factors involved in them making the decision, including the summer season, the downturn in the economy and most likely his age.

When asked if the restaurant was closed for good, Auther replied, “Possibly,” but said depends on what happens by the fall,” or Aug. 30, when the restaurant would reopen.
While Auther stated there have been quite a few calls about the property, she said it is probably priced a little high at $2.95 million, especially in this economy.

She said the building is about 6,500 square feet and the property is a little over an acre.
One reader commented, “I suspect you can count on one hand the number of restaurants west of Manhattan that ask if you wish a dessert soufflé every time you order dinner.”

Top Photo: When Louis Germain closed Le San Souci for the summer, he placed an outgoing message on the restaurant’s answering machine saying they are on vacation and would reopen Aug. 30. However the prospects of that happening dimmed after the Grubb&Ellis sign went up.
Photo by Linda Bentley

Lower Photo: Louis Germain (r) is pictured in the late 70s presenting jazz pianist great Earl “Fatha” Hines with a strawberry desert he prepared after being informed Hines loved strawberries.
Courtesy Photo/Diane Dixson