IF THERE IS ONE PERSON WHOSE NAME IS SYNONYMOUS WITH FRENCH COOKING THE WORLD OVER, IT’S PAUL BOCUSE. THIS CHARISMATIC AND SUPREMELY TALENTED CHEF HAS BUILT A VERITABLE EMPIRE BASED ON ICONIC DISHES, WINNING COUNTLESS AWARDS. WE PRESENT A BRIEF PORTRAIT OF THE MAN MANY CONSIDER THE POPE OF MODERN FRENCH GASTRONOMY.
A passion for cooking is quite literally in Paul Bocuse’s blood. Bocuse was born in 1926 in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or––a scion in a long line of restaurateurs dating back to the 17th century––where his paternal grandfather ran the restaurant Bocuse, and his maternal grandparents managed the Hôtel du Pont a few steps away. Bocuse was 10-years old when his parents set up their family restaurant in the hotel. It later became the Auberge du Pont, Bocuse’s flagship restaurant.
Paul has always taken life by the horns, and dedicated himself body and soul to every undertaking. In 1944, he joined the French army; when he was wounded in combat, he was looked after by Americans, who tattooed a Gallic rooster on his shoulder. He was decorated with the Croix de Guerre for his bravery—the first of many honours he would receive throughout a long and illustrious career.
THE SYMBOLIC THREE STARS
After training in some of the most famous restaurants in Lyon and Paris, Bocuse returned to Collonges in 1958 and earned his first Michelin star, working alongside his father, who died a year later. In 1961, he was named a Meilleur ouvrier de France, and the following year, received his second Michelin star. The third came in 1965, a point of pride for more than 50 years. In 1975, Bocuse was named a Knight of the Legion of Honour by President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and for the occasion, created his famous VGE truffle soup. Named Chef of the Century by Gault et Millau, the “Pope of Gastronomy,” and Chef of the Century by the Culinary Institute of America, this visionary chef developed a line of fine foods in France and Japan, and organized the first world cooking competition in 1987. He pushed French chefs out of their classical comfort zone by experimenting with the lighter, healthier “nouvelle cuisine,” and helped turn chefs into superstars with legions of adoring fans. And yet, beneath the glitz lies a fundamental belief in the most traditional concepts of quality and freshness, which he learned from his mentor and spiritual father, Fernand Point.
THREE QUESTIONS FOR PAUL BOCUSE
How do you view the empire you have built? Above all, I see myself as carrying on the family business. Thanks to the hard work and investment of all our teams, our flagship restaurant, the Auberge, has held three Michelin stars for more than 50 years.
What does the cockerel represent to you? The essence of the French spirit!
What is your favourite dish? It has always been pot-au-feu (stew), because it allows you to ply your talents as a chef any day of the week. The same goes for shepherd’s pie, stuffed tomatoes, beef salad, etc.