Paul Bocuse, perhaps the most well-known contemporary French chef, has died at 91. He was known for his high-end cuisine at Auberge du Pont de Collonges, especially for such dishes as truffle soup with a dramatic dome of puff pastry and Bresse chicken cooked in a bladder. Bocuse began cooking when he was 15, and won his first Michelin star in 1958 (and his second in 1960, third in 1965). In 1975 he was awarded the French Legion of Honor. He was the author of several cookbooks and founder of the Bocuse d’Or, the international culinary competition in which teams from different countries create extravagant platters featuring a range of complicated cooking techniques.
Chef Riad Nasr, previously of Balthazar and the upcoming restaurant Frenchette which opens in February in New York, visited Bocuse’s restaurant in Lyons last September. Bocuse’s French Cooking was one of the first cookbooks Nasr received, and the trip was something of a pilgrimage:
“In your mind, you have this larger than life image, you think you’re walking into this massive chateau, but it’s a pretty humble dining room, and humble restaurant, with a small kitchen that’s been virtually unchanged for how many years,” he remembered. “It was an incredible experience. We got there at 12:30, and left at 4:30, because we ordered everything. Three carts of cheese come by. The same thing with desserts: the fruit desserts, tarts, custards. The dishes you learned to master in culinary school are there, breathing and alive.”
The famous truffle soup, above, lived up to every expectation of grandeur: “There’s squab, duck, I don’t know how many different birds are in there, in this rich consommé, with a fistful of truffles,” said Nasr, “You think you’re going to get 2 or 3 slices, but in every spoonful there’s like six slices of truffle and diced foie gras, julienned vegetable. It sets the table for what’s to come. It’s homey and luxurious all at once. Everything that his cuisine embodies.”
More chefs and people in the food industry remember his influence: