Legendary chef Paul Bocuse dies aged 91

By Sophie Witts contact

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Legendary chef Paul Bocuse dies aged 91

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Celebrated French chef Paul Bocuse has died at the age of 91.

French news organisations have reported that the culinary legend died on Saturday in a room above his famous restaurant L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges in the town of Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, where he was born.

French president Emmanuel Macron led tributes, describing him as the 'incarnation of French cuisine'.

A leading figure in the Nouvelle Cuisine movement in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, Bocuse popularised a lighter version of classic French cooking.

His restaurant in Lyon, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, has held three Michelin stars since 1965 and he founded the Bocuse d’Or global culinary competition in 1975.

Bocuse paved the way for big-name chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsay, opening a chain of restaurants, Les Brasseries Bocuse, across France, and lent his name to sites from Florida to Japan.

Ducasse once credited Bocuse for 'taking the cook out of the kitchen'. A number of the chefs who worked under him have gone on to win Michelin stars across their own restaurant empires, including Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. 

One of his most famous dishes was a truffle soup created in 1975 for a dinner at Elysée Palace in honour of former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. The Soupe V.G.E, a mix of truffles and foie gras in chicken stock topped with pastry, is still served in his restaurant today.

As time went on Bocuse took steps to distance himself from the Nouvelle Cuisine movement, dismissing the ‘mini-portions on maxi-plates’.

“The term Nouvelle Cuisine as it came to be known was nothing to do with what was on the plate, but what was on the bill,” he told The Wall Street Journal​ in 2011.

He also made few concessions to modern dietary faddishness, telling The Daily Telegraph​ in 2005: “I am not a doctor, so if you ask me if it is good to drink red wine, I will say yes because I have a vineyard in Beaujolais. And if you ask about cuisine, I will say it is about butter, cream and wine because I am a chef.”

In 1975, he was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, and he was named Chef of the Century by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in 2011.

Bocuse's family said in a statement: "It is with great sorrow that we inform you of the death of Paul Bocuse. Our "Captain" died on January 20th, at the dawn of his 92th birthday.

"Much more than a father and a husband, he is a man of heart, a spiritual father, an emblematic figure of world gastronomy, and a tricolore porte.

"Mr. Paul loved life, sharing, transmission, and his crew. These same values will continue to inspire us forever."

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Chefs across the world have been paying tribute to Bocuse since his death.

Helene Darroze wrote on Instagram: "Rest in peace Monsieur Paul ... thank you for all that you have left us, for all these doors that you have opened to us ... you will forever embody the great French cuisine, we owe you so much."

Simon Hulstone, who represented the UK at four Bocuse d'Or competitions, said: "I was lucky enough to compete in four Bocuse d'Or finals and the presence of Bocuse was amazing, not only did the competitors just look at him in awe but the judging panel, who are the highest rated chefs in the world, basically acted like commis’ around him.

"It was an honour to be a part of something so special and to meet Bocuse was something I cherish. There is not a chef on this planet who can be held in the same regard as him and I don’t think will again. End of an era." 

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