Tributes have poured in following the death of Paul Bocuse one of the world’s most influential chefs. The “Pope of French Cuisine” died Saturday at the age of 91. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease and underwent a triple heart bypass in 2005.
Today French gastronomy is losing a mythical figure that profoundly transformed it.
French President Emmanuel Macron led the tributes hailing Bocuse as the “Epitome of French cuisine.” In a statement released by the Elysée Palace Macron said, “His name alone summed up French gastronomy in its generosity, its respect for tradition but also its inventiveness. Today French gastronomy is losing a mythical figure that profoundly transformed it.” He added, “The chefs cry in their kitchens, at the Elysée and everywhere in France. But they will continue his work.”
In 2004, Bocuse received one of France’s highest civilian awards when he was made a Commander of the Legion of Honor. He was given the accolade “chef of the century” by the Gault Millau restaurant guide in 1987 and also the Culinary Institute of America in 2011.
Bocuse’s Lyon restaurant “Auberge du Pont de Collonges” with its signature dish of black truffle soup topped with puff pastry won three Michelin Stars. The chef went on to open eateries in France, Switzerland and Japan as well as a culinary school near Lyon. In 1987 Bocuse launched the prestigious international gastronomy contest, the Bocuse d’Or in which chefs from around the world compete in front of a live audience.
The renowned chef who became a cultural superstar wasn’t adverse to self-promotion and, in 1976, told People magazine, “You’ve got to beat the drum in life, God is already famous, but that doesn’t stop the preacher from ringing the church bells every morning.”
Bocuse’s memoir, Paul Bocuse: The Sacred Fire, which was published in 2005 was far steamier than his cookbooks and raised more than a few eyebrows with its revelation that for over 30 years Bocuse had enjoyed relationships with 2 mistresses, as well as his wife with whom he had a daughter. One of his mistresses was the mother of his son Jérôme.
The Pope of French Cuisine published several cookbooks including Paul Bocuse’s French Cooking; Paul Bocuse in Your Kitchen: An Introduction to Classic French Cooking; Bocuse à la Carte; and Paul Bocuse: The Complete Recipes.
The culinary genius was a leader of the nouvelle cuisine movement and was committed to pleasing the eye and piquing the imagination as much as pleasing the palette. He was one of the first chefs to innovate classic French cooking in the 1960s and 70s and shaped his own style of cooking by using fresh ingredients, lighter sauces and fusing new flavors with classic techniques.
Paul Bocuse was born on 11th February 1926, to a family of cooks in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or. His career began with an apprenticeship at a local restaurant and although this was interrupted by the onset of war, he later resumed his training at the La Mère Brazier; a Lyon restaurant with three Michelin stars owned by Eugénie Brazier.
In 1956, Bocuse returned to his family’s restaurant, the Auberge du Pont de Collonges. Two years later it was awarded its first Michelin star. The restaurant’s paper tablecloths and stainless-steel cutlery did not stand in the way of it getting its second star in 1960.
Despite international fame, Bocuse’s roots remained firmly in Lyon where he was passionate about the local dishes and continued to sleep in the bedroom he was born in.
The news of Bocuse’s death was broken by his family in a statement. He is survived by his wife Raymonde, their daughter Francoise and his son, Jerome.