Master pastry chef Gaston Lenttre, the man whose successful catering business made him a household name in France, died yesterday (8 January 2009) at his home in Sologne after a long illness, at the age of 88.
Widely known for reinventing pastry by using less sugar and flour in favour of light mousses and cream, Lenttre has been revered by pastry chefs the world over, with fellow Frenchman and revered chef Paul Bocuse once describing Lenttre’s signature on a cake as prestigious as Christian Dior’s name on a dress.
In a statement, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said of Lenttre: "Thanks to his talent and creativity, his rigour and excellence, he elevated patisserie to the rank of art form."
Born in Normandy in 1920, Lenttre developed a passion for baking at an early age, taking after his mother who had become one of the first female chefs in Paris. Ten years after opening his first patisserie in his native region in 1947, Lenttre moved to Paris with his wife Colette and expanded his empire with a chain of upscale bakeries, until in 1967 he moved into catering with a brand that is now present in 12 countries.
Four years later in 1971, Lenttre opened a professional chef training school in Plaisir, where chefs to this day prove testament to the ‘magician-caterers’ talent. In 1985 the Lenttre brand joined forces with Accor to become one of the leading caterers in France with a portfolio of 18 stores and six restaurants, including Pavillion Elysee Lenttre on the Champs Elysee in Paris.
A spokesperson for the Lenttre company, said: "He was a tireless worker, passionate and curious, unyielding when it came to quality, who succeeded in preparing a solid new guard in the fields of patisserie and cuisine, to which he dedicated his entire life."
For his 80th birthday in 2000, a hoard of trainee chefs built a 10ft high cake in the Trocadero gardens near the Eiffel Tower as a tribute.