A Farewell Letter of Gratitude & Thanks
Dear Monsieur Paul Bocuse,
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience the best culinary education in the world at L’Institut Paul Bocuse. Thank you for teaching my professors who then taught me everything I know. Thank you for giving me a new, creative and inspired career. Thank you for teaching me to always respect the food product, the inspiration behind my urban farm and garden. Thank you for allowing culinary students into the inner workings of your kitchens and wine cave at L’Auberge. Thank you for the opportunity to attend the Bocuse D’Or – the Olympics of the culinary world. Thank you for influencing so many wonderful chefs of whose restaurants I am grateful to have patronized, including the old and the new Trois Gros. Thank you for being a tireless inspiration to so many. And thank you for always being you. Your bright personality and culinary genius, your brilliant business sense and mentorship skills will be greatly missed and impossible to forget.
Je vous prie de croire, Monsieur Bocuse, à l’assurance de mes salutations distinguées,
January 20, 2018
This past Saturday morning, I found myself sorting through various sources on La Saint-Valentin and the saint’s disputed origin while attempting to refine (no pun intended) the long history of chocolate into a few short paragraphs (after all, Valentine’s Day + France + love + chocolate + fail-proof ganache recipe = albeit obvious, the perfect February blog post.) Halfway through my rough draft, I received the news: Paul Bocuse - the “Pope of Gastronomy,” Meilleur Ouvrier de France, 3-starred Michelin chef, and esteemed mentor and inspiration of world-renowned chefs like Alain Chapel, René Lasserre, Pierre Laporte, Gaston Lenôtre, Roger Verger, Jean Troisgros, Pierre Troisgros, Raymond Oliver, Paul Haeberlien and Michel Guerard, dies in his childhood home at the age of 91. Personally, writing an article about an over commercialized (in the states; not France) holiday of whose origins are, if nothing else, bizarre to go along with a recipe for “the perfect ganache” seemed untimely and trite. So, on the eve of my deadline, after finishing my letter of gratitude, I find myself wistfully and regretfully, eagerly and pressingly writing this month’s article about the man named “Cuisinier du Siecle” by the Culinary Institute of America, Monsieur Paul Bocuse.
Bocuse was the most renowned postwar era, French chef who joined forces in the ‘60s and ‘70s with other legends, like Fernand Point, to recreate French cuisine (a culinary movement called nouvelle cuisine.) Nouvelle cuisine was lighter and fresher (a priority still emphasized in all his restaurants and brasseries.) Bocuse’s comprehensive mastery of classical culinary techniques, unique flavor combinations and innovative methods of cooking combined to impress every sense; in other words, his cuisine is nothing short of exceptional and extraordinary.
Alongside his fresh and inventive approach to cuisine came an improvement of the restaurant kitchen and the image or idea of the “French chef.” Bocuse’s kitchens are run tight and clean (an influence from his apprenticeship with Fernand Point and Point’s militaristic style.) Bocuse shattered the image of the 400-pound chef sporting a grease and cream splattered apron; instead of hiding in his filthy apron and kitchens as many of his precursors had, Bocuse would joyfully walk around the dining room of his famed 3-star restaurant that is just outside of Lyon, called L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges. Dressed in his perfectly starched, white chef’s jacket and toque, chatting with clientele about the food or n’importe quoi, he became one of the first of what would become a long line of “celebrity chefs.” But despite his international fame, Bocuse always returned to Lyon and to his restaurant. He loved his family, his terroir, his home - he even slept in the same room where he was born and where he ultimately died on the morning of January 20, 2018. Although I never met you in person, a part of you will always live inside of me. Rest in peace.