Paul Bocuse: a tribute to the Pope of gastronomy

29-01-2018 Intérieur de l'auberge Pont de Collonges Paul Bocuse
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The great French chef Paul Bocuse has died aged 91. Considered by his peers as the world’s greatest chef, they payed tribute to their master in their droves.

 

That the New York Times should inform its readership by text of his passing – a foreigner at that – is testament to the greatness of a man, Paul Bocuse, revered as the godfather of French cuisine who devoted his life to extolling its virtues around the world.

 

A life dedicated to cuisine

Paul Bocuse, pape de la gastronomie

Paul Bocuse began his life journey on the banks of the Seine in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or near Lyon, where he was born, raised, and spent his entire life until his passing. Born into a long line of chefs, he took over the family business and was awarded his first Michelin star in 1958, at Auberge du Pont de Collonges. With a passion for local, “simple, good quality” ingredients – “simple et beaux” to coin his usual phrase – his flavoursome cooking was soon winning the plaudits of culinary critics. In his kitchens, fresh ingredients reigned, banishing the frozen or preserved, while “costly” caviar was even less likely to feature. His passion for cooking never ceased to drive his quality standards to even greater heights, with a second Michelin star in 1962 and the title Meilleur Ouvrier de France, (best craftsmen of France, a prestigious title recognising work approaching perfection), and in 1965, a third, much-coveted Michelin star, which he would retain for the rest of his days.

Monsieur Paul” as he was affectionately known by colleagues, will leave an indelible mark on the gastronomic landscape, where he will be remembered also as the founding father of Bocuse d’Or, the world’s most prestigious cooking competition. These culinary Olympics are held every two years in his native Lyon, a city which saw his culinary empire flourish, while his commercial interests spanned the globe, including a successful chain of 8 brasseries in Japan launched in 2007.

 

His signature Truffle  Soup

L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges

Those fortunate to have sampled his cuisine will never forget the exquisite flavours of his “halfmourning chicken” (poularde demi-deuil) or crayfish tail gratin (Gratin aux queue d’ecrevisses), and his most famous dish, truffle soup with a puff-pastry crust, created for a presidential dinner to honour Valery Giscard d’Estaing in his restaurant in 1975. His culinary legacy is far-reaching, having inspired and will continue to inspire, the greatest chefs.

 

Tributes to the “Chef of the Century”

Ever resplendent in chef’s hat and whites, Paul Bocuse influenced many generations of chefs who have paid tribute to his memory.

 

In France

The Michelin Guide: “An “iconic figure” of French cuisine, Paul Bocuse worked throughout his life to promote French gastronomy and raise the profile of his profession, which he revolutionised”.

Alain Ducasse, three-star Michelin French chef: “The lighthouse of world gastronomy has gone out. Paul Bocuse illuminated new, unexplored horizons before him. He built the foundations of French gastronomy, which has become, beyond the rankings, the embodiment of the universal values of gastronomy throughout the world. A man of tradition, innovation and modernity, he conveyed an open mind and a sense of the collective, beyond strong talents and personalities, which is perhaps necessary to meet the excellence and demands of our profession.”

Come de Cherisey, Chairman of the Gault Millau Guide, who named him “Chef of the Century” in 1987: “He was responsible for the culinary big bang in France and around the world.”

Regis Marcon, three-star Michelin chef: “He was a culinary monument who made it his mission to promote his profession. Leaders such as him do wonders for a profession.”

Marc Veyrat, former three-star Michelin chef: “There is a feeling of deep sadness; a day of national mourning for gastronomy.”

 

And tributes from abroad

On Twitter, British Chef Brian Turner, President of the Academy of Culinary Arts: “So sad to hear of the demise of Paul Bocuse. Not only a legend, he was THE legend, may he rest in peace. Love to all the family.”

James Martin, chef and presenter of BBC’s Saturday Kitchen commented: “Very saddened to hear that the greatest of them all has passed away. RIP Paul Bocuse.”

In the USA, Anthony Bourdain, celebrity food critic on CNN wrote: “Paul Bocuse, a hero to me from my earliest days as a cook. A great, great chef who was very kind to me. To have spent time with him was an honor and a dream come true. Rest in Peace.”

Thomas Keller, chef specialising in French cuisine and patron of Per Se restaurant in New York and the French Laundry in California, wrote on Twitter: “Chef Paul Bocuse changed our lives and the lives of millions. He set the example for chefs and restaurateurs.”

Virgilio Martinez, chef of El Central in Lima, crowned three times best restaurant in Latin America wrote: “He left a legacy, a trace, a monumental and giant brand in world gastronomy. Not only is he a great representative of France that we all know, but he is also a representative of haute cuisine; there was great innovation in his classicism.”

René Redzepi, the Danish chef behind Noma, the two-star restaurant in Copenhagen, wrote on Twitter: “RIP Paul Bocuse – sleep well chef, and thank you for a lifetime of work and inspiration.”