The stories of the great chefs: Paul Bocuse

The stories of the great chefs: Paul Bocuse

We retrace the story of one of the chefs who made French cuisine great and influenced world gastronomy: Paul Bocuse.

The most important of the chefs of the twentieth century is undoubtedly his majesty, indeed his Holiness of the kitchen , the most eminent, the pope king ,  Paul Bocuse . Writing his biography and talking about it is a gigantic job. I own two editions, the first in cardboard from the late 70s and a recent one from 2010, of his La Cuisine du Marchè . I am not a professional in the kitchen and therefore I confess that I have never once dared to prepare one of the 150 original recipes, much less to propose them to friends, except for the filet de boeuf Saint Germain, because in turn it derives from the Carême fillet, but with less fat. If we take Carême as an example, Escoffier and therefore Bocuse are the historical continuation of French cuisine.


Paul Bocuse - Chef Paul Bocuse

Bocuse was born in Collonges au Mont d’Or on 11 February 1926. The only son of George and Irma Bocuse, he comes from a long line of chefs dating back at least to the 17th century. in 1958 he returned to the family restaurant in collonges and won his first michelin starHis grandfather owned the restaurant that bears the name of Bocuse in Collonges au Mont d’Or and receives the Hotel du Pont from his maternal grandparents. From an early age he was familiar with both traditional southern French cuisine (the more Mediterranean one) and Haute Cuisine, that of Escoffier and Carême. At 20 he began his apprenticeship with Eugénie Brazier at the Col de la Luère Pollionnay, then worked at Lucas Carton, a prestigious restaurant on Place de la Madeleine in Paris, with Gaston Richard, where he forms a team with Pierre and Jean Troisgros. He goes through the kitchens of Belle Ranges in Charbonnières-les-Bains, then from Claude Maret to Charly, who will later be president of the Chefs de France association. In 1950 the three worked at the Pyramide in Lyon with Paul Mercier. Paul spends 8 years under the direction of Fernand Point, his mentor. In 1958 he finally returned to Collonges: here the family restaurant received its first Michelin star. On the death of his father in 1959, Paul bought the Collonges Abbey. In 1961 he won the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the only competition in which he participated: he declared in 2013 that it is the title he is most proud of. In 1962 it takes the second Michelin star. Finally, in 1965, the third star: since then for over 50 years it has never lost them.

paul bocuse 3

In 1970, he participated in the birth of the Nouvelle Cuisine manifesto in association with Henri Gault and Christian Millau and with 12 other French (3-star) chefs, including Jean and Pierre Troisgros (his cronies), Roger Verge (la Cuisine du Soleil ), Louis Outhier, Charles Barrier, Paul Haeberlin, Michel Guérard, Alain Chapel, Gaston Lenôtre, Raymond Oliver, René Lasserre and Pierre Laporte. Since 1987 he has created the international cooking competition (the Bocuse d’Or), one of the most prestigious culinary competitions in the world. In 1989 he became president of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France kitchen and dining competition section .


He is called Chef of the Century alongside Fredy Girardet and Joël Robuchon by the Gault Millau guide and is considered the Pope of gastronomy . In 2004 he created the Paul Bocuse Foundation to teach and transfer his knowledge to new talents. Since 2006, the Halles de Lyon, one of the most important malls in the city, bears his name. The annual turnover of all its culinary businesses globally is estimated at around 50 million euros, with over 700 employees.

La Nouvelle Cuisine

nouvelle cuisine

Born into a family of chefs, Paul never changed direction: he studied, fought and changed the history of French cuisine. After years of work he became the top of France in 1965, that is, he reached the apex of his working career: he could have stopped, instead he started a new path. In doing this, he is not satisfied and embarks on the impervious path of Nouvelle Cuisine : he not only generates it but determines its modalities, the system, and sets the rules. It is an epochal change: the chef is no longer the carver, he is an artist. It is the cook’s liberation from the fire and the basement. There is also a transformation of the diet that lightens, recovers tradition, renews itself, deconstructs itself. Published by Henri Gault and Christian Millau in 1973, these are the10 rules that define the new behavior of chefs .

  1. You won’t overcook
  2. You will use fresh and quality products
  3. You will lighten your menu
  4. You will not be systematically modernist
  5. However, you will seek the contribution of new techniques
  6. You will avoid marinades, aging, fermentation, etc.
  7. You will eliminate the rich sauces and gravies
  8. You will not ignore dietetics
  9. You will not make up the presentation of your dishes
  10. You will be inventive

From there on opens the way to everything we consider quality food. Try to think of a chef today who doesn’t apply at least eight of these rules: impossible.

The way of Bocuse

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In reality in the course of 70 years of cooking there is no dish that is really attributable to Paul Bocuse, but there is no dish that Bocuse has not improved or perfected, in method and substance, in the exaltation of flavor, there is no dish that, in some way, bocuse has not improved or perfectedof the scent of freshness, of contrast. In this sense, it is the recipes of many of his students that can be defined  in the manner of Paul Bocuse . Imagine a world emerging from the post-war economic boom and still eating like the feudal lords of the 10th century, with an abundance of fats and overcooked foods, floating in oil or, worse, Renaissance  with abundant sugars to sweeten the flavors. All this disappears: we move on to undercooked, low-fat (olive oil when possible), many more fresh vegetables and combinations reduced to three elements; salt is considered as any spice. Everything is local, fresh and from the marché, from the market: natural, organic, the rule and not the exception. It is mentally distorting the way food is served even to a large public, it is opposing an impoverishment of the territory; it is the negation of consumer imperialism.

paul bocuse

Words such as territory and local , such as fresh and clean , healthy and fair , arise from this utopia that of eating what is produced locally at the very moment in which it is produced: the best and only possible way, where quality really is a founding adjective, and stands for work and dedication, attention and knowledge.

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