Food critic with a taste for lighter meals

French gastronomy critic Christian Millau (in suit) with French chef Paul Bocuse (front, left) and other famous French chefs in Paris in 1989.
French gastronomy critic Christian Millau (in suit) with French chef Paul Bocuse (front, left) and other famous French chefs in Paris in 1989.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Christian Millau, co-founder of the French Gault & Millau guide, championed the nouvelle cuisine movement, advocating health-conscious menus

PARIS • He had no appetite for fancy French cooking, so he whipped up a call to chefs to dole out less fussy and healthier fare.

That French food critic - Christian Millau, who is credited with promoting nouvelle cuisine or new cooking - has died at age 88, his friends said on Monday.

The journalist, who launched the famed Gault & Millau guide in 1969 with his late colleague Henri Gault, helped galvanise the movement of young French chefs in developing lighter, more inventive and beautiful-looking dishes that altered restaurant menus forever.

The guide's director Mr Come de Cherisey told Agence France- Presse that Millau helped change food culture across the world and championed chefs who are now seen as some of the world's best.

"He revolutionised the world of gastronomy by supporting chefs he discovered, like Joel Robuchon and Michel Guerard." Chef Robuchon has a restaurant in Singapore with three Michelin stars.

Mr de Cherisey added: "Millau was also close to chef Paul Bocuse and helped (officially) launch nouvelle cuisine in 1973."

The nouvelle cuisine movement was a reaction to the fussy complications and rich sauces of classic French cuisine, which relies heavily on butter and cream.

Instead, its supporters, led by Millau and Gault - who coined the term - advocated lighter meals and shorter, more health-conscious menus.

Between them, they drew up the "10 commandments" of nouvelle cuisine by pulling together the styles of young chefs such as Bocuse, Robuchon and Alain Senderens whom they admired.

They urged chefs to be more inventive, both visually and in the ingredients they used, insisting on freshness and lightness.

"These new nouvelle cuisine commandments were a big bang at the time," Mr de Cherisey said.

"Everything then was very traditional - sauces were heavy and meats gamey - and there was not the same emphasis on the artistry of the chefs."

Millau is also credited with getting chefs out of their kitchens to help explain their food - a process which led to the celebrity chefs - such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay - who now make millions from book sales and television shows.

Mr Marc Esquerre, the guide's present editor, said: "Gault and Millau really brought the human angle to restaurant guides for the first time. They were an intermediary between the public and cooks, and they brought these two worlds together."

Gastronomic critic Gilles Pudlowski, of the rival French Pudlo guide, was among the first to pay tribute to Millau, who died in his Paris home.

"Christian Millau is not dead, he is eternal. Dear Christian, what would I be without you?"

Bocuse said Gault first used the term nouvelle cuisine to describe food that he and other young chefs had prepared for the maiden flight of the Anglo-French supersonic Concorde plane in 1969.

That same year, Gault and Millau began publishing their quirky and unstuffy reviews of French restaurants in a monthly magazine, which soon became an annual guide.

"Millau was very much the writer" of the two and it was his style which gave the guide its personality, Mr Esquerre said.

The Gault & Millau guide is now seen as second in influence only to the Michelin and is published in 12 countries.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Food critic with a taste for lighter meals'. Print Edition | Subscribe