We’ve heard a lot about the fathers of the kitchen, the masters of gastronomy, the kings of cooking… and where are the women in all this? Statistics show that only 4% of women have received awards of international importance. A drop in the sea! Yet many great masters return in their memory to the home cares and dishes of their mothers or grandmothers. Let’s recall the figure of a woman with an amazing biography!
“Mother Chef Lyonnaise”
At the height of his fame, Eugénie Brazier’s restaurants attracted French presidents, prime ministers and celebrities, including movie star Marlene Dietrich, who loved Brazier’s Langouste Belle Aurore (lobster with brandy and cream).
She was born in 1895 in La Tranclière, a village in the Ain department in eastern France. Brazier began her career as a cook at the age of 13. She opened her first restaurant in 1921 in Lyon. Interestingly, the woman had no education, and yet she had no equal. She was a single mother who created real works of art in the kitchen.
The uncompromising queen
Eugénie demanded the highest quality products from her suppliers. Anecdote has it that one of her suppliers joked that soon the chef would expect her to manicure the birds before accepting them. She hated waste, so she prepared stuff lunches from leftovers, and fed her pigs with uneaten food. She was equally diligent in keeping things clean, emptying the warehouses for cleaning every day.
Its menu changed according to the requirements of seasonal availability. When vegetables were scarce, she served macaroni casserole with Gruyère cheese. Eugénie Brazier’s cuisine was known for its simplicity and reliance on local ingredients, and dishes such as chicken fricas, pike quenelles and veal head with gribiche sauce became her signature dishes.
The simplicity of the ingredients and elements of Brazier’s traditional cooking style are two things that have kept her cooking cohesive.
Hard work, sacrifices and demands brought her international awards. Eugénie Brazier was the first person to earn three Michelin stars, the highest rating possible, for her restaurant “La Mère Brazier” in 1933. She earned a second three-star rating in 1949 for her second restaurant in Lyon.
In addition to her success as a chef, Eugénie was also a pioneer for women in the culinary industry. She trained several famous chefs, including Paul Bocuse, who worked as an apprentice in her kitchen. Eugénie Brazier was professionally active until her death. She died at the age of 81 in 1977, leaving the running of the restaurant to her granddaughter Jacotte. In 2004, the restaurant closed, remaining empty until 2008 when it was bought by Viannay.
While Eugénie Brazier’s legacy lives on in her restaurant, she has been forgotten. She left a legacy as a pioneer of French cuisine and a role model for women in the culinary world.
She deserves a place on the podium next to the grandparents of French cuisine, masters who brought gastronomy to the heights of art. The pantheon will accommodate all the figures. And that’s what we wish for the next generation of female chefs.