Pioneer French chef Paul Bocuse dies at 91

Chef Paul Bocuse was a driving force behind the "nouvelle cuisine" revolution in the 1970s.
Chef Paul Bocuse was a driving force behind the "nouvelle cuisine" revolution in the 1970s. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS • Mr Paul Bocuse, one of the greatest French chefs of all time, has died aged 91, France's Interior Minister said yesterday.

Mr Bocuse, who died after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, helped shake up the food world in the 1970s with the "nouvelle cuisine" revolution and created the idea of the celebrity chef.

Announcing the death, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb tweeted that "Monsieur Paul was France".

"He was one of the greatest figures of French gastronomy, the General Charles de Gaulle of cuisine," said French food critic Francois Simon, comparing him to France's wartime saviour and dominant post-war leader.

A giant in a nation that prides itself as the beating heart of gastronomy, Mr Bocuse was France's only chef to keep the Michelin food bible's coveted three-star rating through more than four decades.

The heart of his empire, L'Auberge de Collonges au Mont D'Or, his father's village inn near Lyon in food-obsessed south-eastern France, earned three stars in 1965, and never lost a single one.

"Monsieur Paul", as he was known, was named "chef of the century" by Michelin's rival guide, the Gault-Millau in 1989, and again by The Culinary Institute of America in 2011.

In 1987, he created the biennial Bocuse d'Or culinary competition - the equivalent of the Olympics for professional cooks - where 24 chefs from around the world compete in a live cooking contest in Lyon.

Born in 1926 to a family of cooks since 1765, Mr Bocuse began his apprenticeship at the age of 16 and came to epitomise a certain type of French epicurean - a lover of fine wine, food and women.

A great upholder of tradition as well as an innovator, Mr Bocuse left several of his trademark dishes at the Auberge unchanged for decades, such as the bass in a pastry crust or the black truffle soup he created for French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1975, who named him a commander in the Legion of Honour.

He slept in the same room where he was born, and maintained a relationship with his wife Raymonde and at least two lovers.

Together with the Gault-Millau guide, Mr Bocuse became a driving force behind the nouvelle cuisine, sweeping away the rich and heavy sauces of yesteryear in favour of fresh ingredients and sleek aesthetics.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 21, 2018, with the headline Pioneer French chef Paul Bocuse dies at 91. Subscribe