A few weeks ago, Paul Bocuse, probably the most famous French chef, died at the age of 91.
It is said that he prepared his first great dish at the age of eight, which I have no trouble believing since he grew up in a family of cooks. His whole life was dedicated to fine cuisine, with only a short interruption to his career during the second world war.
Today nobody is surprised when a chef becomes a celebrity, but Bocuse was a ground breaker in this regard. As a young apprentice chef in the 1940’s and 50’s, he was part of a movement that was changing the face of French cuisine. The heavy intricate sauces were being ousted in favour of a lighter method of cooking, where each ingredient was valued for its individual flavour. This movement would eventually be called ‘nouvelle cuisine’.
Bocuse was not the only chef working for change, but he was the first to grab headlines, and most importantly to understand how to use the limelight to further his career.
At his flagship restaurant , the Auberge du Pont de Collonges, near Lyon in the centre of France, he has proudly held on to three michelin stars for more than fifty years , a unique achievement.
His most well known dish is his truffle soup, that he famously serves in individual bowls topped with a lid of golden pastry. If you read the recipe, he gives careful instructions on how to break into the pastry crust to release the incredible perfume of the truffle below.
I am sorry to say that I have never eaten at his restaurant. We wanted to go last summer and plans didn’t come together, but his cook book, la Cuisine du Marché, is very well worn on my bookshelves, and bears an air of authority over the other more recent volumes.
It is to Monsieur Bocuse that I owe the popularity of Creme Caramel in our family. He explains in his book the importance of the yolks as well as the whole eggs to make the perfect texture. If you’d like to see the recipe that I use, just click here.
What I love most about Bocuse is that he embodies the French passion for excellence and savoir-faire. That it is worthwhile spending time on the details and striving for the very best.
Au Revoir Monsieur Bocuse et merci.