Paul Bocuse: A French legend and culinary icon

By February 2, 2018History

Paul Bocuse, embodied all that you think of when you think “Chef” — White coat, tall hat, bit of a play-boy, French. But he was much more than just one of the most decorated chefs of the 20th century. He was a symbol of pride for the French, a leading chef of the post-war era movement “la nouvelle cuisine” and an overall icon of the culinary world and French culture.

That being said, not just France mourned the passing of the “Pope of French cuisine” on Jan. 30 of this year. In fact, hundreds of chefs from around the world dressed in white chef coats to attend his funeral, held in Lyon.


But enough about his death, what about the life of Monsieur Chef Bocuse.

To begin to understand this grand chef, let’s look at the opening line of Paul Bocuse’s cookbook La Cuisine du Marché: “Tous les matins — c’est une tradition lyonnaise dont j’aurais bien du mal à me défaire — je me rends au marché et je flâne parmi les étalages. […] Parfois, je ne sais même pas quels plats je ferai pour le repas de midi : c’est le marché qui décide.” – Bocuse 1976

This was a man obviously in a love affair with ingredients, cooking, and the culture around food in France. And he came by it honestly! He came from a long line of chefs, you could call it the family trade. In fact his son is also a chef. What a family affaire, right?

Anyways, he is most known for being the father of la nouvelle cuisine that strayed from the caloric and rich food being served in France and experimented more with light, fresh ingredients in a more simple way. His new and innovative techniques with fresh ingredients inspired an entire generation, maybe multi-generations of chefs around the world. In fact, he practically created the “celebrity chef” image as well. But Bocuse’s fame and success elevated the profession to what it is today, and not to mention that many of Bocuse’s students have become world renowned chefs themselves. Chefs today are respected, celebrated and famous. However, this wasn’t always the case. But thank goodness times have changed, right? Because where would we be without the endless cooking shows on television?

I can’t say enough about how important M. Bocuse was to the culinary world, but if you don’t believe me, just look at his awards and accomplishments. I’ve made a handy-dandy list of some of them for you down below:

  • The Culinary Institute of America honoured Bocuse in their Leadership Awards Gala on 30 March 2011.
  • He received the “Chef of the Century” award.
  • In 1975, he created soupe aux truffes (truffle soup) for a presidential dinner at the Élysée Palace. Since then, the soup has been served in Bocuse’s restaurant near Lyon as Soupe V.G.E., VGE being the initials of former president of France Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.
  • He received the medal of Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, which is the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits, established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte .
  • The Bocuse d’Or, the Concours mondial de la cuisine / World Cooking Contest, is a biennial world chef championship, named after him.
  • His restaurant L’Auberge Du Pont de Collonges was the first restaurant to earn 3 michelin stars and has held those stars since 1965.


Overall, this man was highly revered and respected and the impression he left is timeless. Un grand merci à vous M. Chef Bocuse pour nous inspirer et pour éléver la nourriture française. Vous vivez toujours dans nos esprits et coeurs. 

ATTENTION: Stay tuned for our upcoming events and look for a cooking workshop tribute to the grand Chef in April!

A bientôt !

Jane Eagleton




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