Paul Bocuse: the “Pope” of French Cuisine

When the sad news of Paul Bocuse’s death spread around the world in 2018, the loss was felt by everyone – politicians, chefs, and food critics. However, the master himself made sure that his place was not left empty. During his lifetime, he trained many of his his successors with great commitment.

photo: Instagram Paul Bocuse @paulbocuse_officiel

Who was the “pope” of contemporary French cuisine?

Born in 1926 into a family of cooks since 1765, Paul Bocuse began his apprenticeship at the age of 16. Two years later, he volunteered and was drafted into the Free French Army, fighting in the Premiere Division Française. After returning from the war, he continued his education.

V.G.E Truffle Soup

The dish created for the presidential dinner in honor of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, former French president, was inspired by the recipe of Paul’s mentor, Eugénie Brazier. She was the forgotten icon that shaped him. Bocuse began his culinary career as an apprentice at La Mère Brazier, where he learned the basics of traditional French cooking.

Eugénie passed on to him her cooking philosophy, emphasizing product freshness. She taught him many techniques that he later used to create his own unique style. Bocuse often spoke fondly of Brazier and credited her with inspiring him to pursue his passion for cooking. Later he trained in the profession under the supervision of Gaston Richard in Paris.

Bocuse later opened his own restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, which became one of the most famous restaurants in the world. The restaurant quickly gained recognition for its impeccable cuisine and became a destination for gourmets from around the world. Bocuse’s style inspired everyone. The chef combined traditional French techniques with the trends prevailing at the time. Bocuse received the highest global award in the culinary world (3 stars) in 1965. Incredibly, he held it for 53 years until his death in 2018.

Educating successors

The chef popularized Nouvelle Cuisine, a style based on lighter, fresher flavors and simpler, more elegant presentations. He passed on his knowledge and passion by educating the next generation of chefs. In 1987, to recognize and promote the best chefs in the world, chef Paul created the Bocuse d’Or competition. It involves creating a dish from a given thematic component and a set of rules and guidelines. The prestigious competition is held annually in France. In 2019, the organizers announced that they would change the name of the competition to “Bocuse d’Or Europe” in honor of Bocuse’s contribution to the culinary world.

Chef Paul himself was a big fan and often marked his presence when evaluating the final courses. Bocuse himself has represented France several times in chef competitions. He believed that competitions help push boundaries, encourage continuous improvement of one’s skills, and unite the chef community.

Lover of good wine, food, and women

Paul Bocuse was a chef by education, an epicurean by passion, in love with delicious food, wine, and women. He slept in the room where he was born throughout his life. He was proud to have a stable relationship with his wife and at least two lovers, in which (rumor has it) everyone was happy. 

“I love women and we live too long to spend our whole lives with one partner,”

Bocuse told the Daily Telegraph in 2005.

“I work like I’m going to live to be 100 and savor every day like it’s my last”

Despite Parkinson’s disease, he remained active. Throughout his career, Bocuse has received numerous awards and honors, including the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration, and the Global Gastronomy Award. He died on January 20, 2018, at the age of 91, but his legacy lives on as one of the most influential figures in the history of French cuisine.

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