Legendary ‘chef of the century’ Paul Bocuse dies at 91

Tributes have been pouring in from across France and the culinary world after legendary chef Paul Bocuse was confirmed to have died at age 91.

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Bocuse - whose surname is perhaps best-known for the gruelling culinary competition he founded, which takes place every two years in Lyon (the Bocuse d’Or) - owned and worked at his three Michelin-star restaurant, L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges near Lyon, which was the jewel in the crown of an empire estimated to be worth around €50 million.

Born on February 11 1926, Bocuse is said to have died in his own restaurant on Saturday January 20, after suffering from Parkinson’s disease for several years, according to the Agence France-Presse.

Often considered a pioneer of the 1970s nouvelle cuisine style, Bocuse was known for updating the traditional, “old-fashioned” style of French cooking, making it healthier and fresher with lighter sauces, shorter cooking times and fresh local produce, however he shunned some of the extremes which became associated with the movement such as tiny portions. He joked in a 2007 Le Figaro interview that such cooking was "nothing in the plate and everything in the bill".

Feu Sacré, the 2005 book on the chef by his adopted daughter, Eve-Marie Zizza-Lalu, said the chef had lost none of his enthusiasm for traditional food, and loved “butter, cream, and wine”, as well as down-to-earth dishes such as pot-au-feu and beef bourguignon.

A near-unparalleled culinary talent - L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges has held three Michelin stars since 1965 - Bocuse was also named “chef of the century” twice: once by the Michelin rival guide Gault-Millau in 1989, and once by the Culinary Institute of America in 2011.

The chef won his first Michelin star in 1958, and only continued to collect them since.

He also became Meilleur Ouvrier de France (a highly prestigious culinary accolade) in 1961, and became known for dishes including the “VGE (Valéry Giscard d'Estaing) soup” - a truffle soup served with a dome of puff pastry on top.

As well as his high-end restaurant, Bocuse had several brasseries around Lyon, including Le Nord, Le Sud, L’Est, L’Ouest, L’Argenson ou Fond Rose. He opened eight brasseries in Japan from 2007 onwards, and in 2013 opened a restaurant under his name in New York.

Bocuse was also much-loved for his commitment to training and helping younger chefs. As well as launching the Bocuse d’Or contest in 1987, he was also president of the hospitality education institute l’Institut Paul Bocuse d’Ecully (Rhône), explains newspaper Le Monde.

Well-known for his colourful private life, the chef cheerfully claimed in interviews that he “adored women”.

He admitted to carrying on two long-term extramarital affairs outside of his 1945 marriage to Raymonde, as well as many other shorter-lived dalliances, and had two children by different women. His son Jérôme has since followed in his culinary footsteps.

In a 2005 interview with UK newspaper The Telegraph, he said: “A lot is being made about my private life, and why not? I adore women and we live too long these days to spend a whole life with only one. I work as if I will live to be 100, and I enjoy life as if the next day will be my last."

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb was among the first to publicly mourn Bocuse, posting on messaging site Twitter: “Paul Bocuse is dead. Gastronomy is in mourning. Mr Paul was France.”

President Emmanuel Macron was quick to follow, saying that Bocuse had been an “incarnation of French cuisine”, who had “profoundly changed” French cooking.

"Chefs are crying in their kitchens today", he said, adding that "French gastronomy will continue to make [Bocuse] proud".

High-profile US chef Anthony Bourdain has also joined the public tributes, calling Bocuse a “great, great chef who was very kind to me,” and “a hero to me from my earliest days as a cook”.

Lyon restaurateur Christophe Marguin has been quoted as saying “For me, God has died”, while on photo sharing platform Instagram, Parisian chef Cyril Lignac thanked Bocuse “for all the good moments we spent together; your advice and laughter and the guidance you have given our profession”.

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