“Paul Bocuse was the incarnation of French cuisine,” said French President Emmanuel Macron after the death of the famous chef this weekend. Bocuse passed away in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, in Lyon, where he was born and operated his main restaurant, after suffering from Parkinson’s disease for several years.
The father of nouvelle cuisine
Bocuse is a pioneer who popularised a new cooking philosophy during the 1970s: nouvelle cuisine. It was a modern approach to French cooking, where dishes were lighter, simpler and more delicate. Fresh produce became king and cooking time shorter.
According to Bocuse, culinary critic Henri Gault who first coined the term “nouvelle cuisine” to talk about his cooking.
His most famous dishes were a black truffle soup (aka his "truffle soup V.G.E.") with foie gras and chicken broth enveloped in a puff pastry (it was a tribute to French president Valéry Giscard D'Estaing), a fricassée of Bresse chicken served in cream with morels and a fillet of red mullet covered in potato “scales”.
In an interview with Le Figaro in 2007, he said his ultimate meal would be his “truffle soup V.G.E., followed by a fillet of sole with noodles or a Bresse chicken, a Saint-Marcellin [a soft cheese], and for dessert, a vanilla ice cream or snow eggs. You drink according to your means, a Montrachet or a Kiravi”.
He loved to cook with cream, wine and butter. About the latter, he famously said, “it’s a magical product, nothing replaces butter”.
One of the first celebrity chefs
Monsieur Paul, as he was nicknamed, was one of the first celebrity chefs, appearing on TV shows, writing best-selling cookbooks and having his own cookware line. He has opened several restaurants around the world, including one in Melbourne’s Daimaru department store during the 1990s, with Philippe Mouchel as head chef.
Patrick Benhamou, from the France Tourism Agency, brought Bocuse to Australia. He told the Australian Financial Review that Bocuse absolutely loved Australian produce like Tasmanian salmon.
Bocuse was named Cook of the Century by the Gault & Millau food guide in 1989, and Chef of the Century the Culinary Institute of America in 2011. He has also received France’s highest honour, the Légion d’honneur in 1975.
Monsieur Paul, as he was nicknamed, was one of the first celebrity chefs, appearing on TV shows, writing best-selling cookbooks and having his own cookware line.
While he was praised as a genius, Monsieur Paul also had his controversial moments. He was considered a shameless self-promoter and a sexist. Despite having been a student of Eugénie Brazier, the first woman to earn three Michelin stars, he believed that women didn’t belong in restaurant kitchens. In a 1976 interview with People magazine, he said: “Women are good cooks, but they are not good chefs.”
Famous chefs pay tribute to Bocuse
Paul Bocuse’s work has inspired countless chefs around the world. Many of them bade him farewell on social media after the news of his passing.
Translation: “My sorrow is great, but a little voice inside me eases my sadness. Monsieur Paul has gone to meet my father, Jacques Pic, up there in the stars, in paradise. Goodbye Monsieur Paul."
The Best of Taste le Tour with Gabriel Gaté airs every night from Saturday 6 July and finishes Sunday 28 July 2019. Visit the Taste le Tour website to catch-up on episodes online, scroll through recipes or find out more about the show.