In Memorium, Chef Paul Bocuse

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I don’t know why I was sort of expecting him to live forever because who does. But his legacy will certainly live on.

I have several sweet stories of Paul Bocuse--one that even took place in Germany, on a wine trip, when we were having dinner at the restaurant of one of his best friends. I was given the privilege of visiting the men’s room when it was empty to view a huge photo over the urinals of Bocuse and the restaurateur, as young men, christening a shiny black locomotive with gleeful smiles on their faces, turned sideways to the camera. I will leave it to your imagination exactly what they were using and it wasn’t champagne. 

I have had the great fortune of eating chez Bocuse twice—the first time with a group of engineers from Proctor and Gamble, whom I was escorting on a chocolate trip through the Rhone valley and Paris. But the most memorable story took place after I was after I was visiting the Daguin’s in Auch, Gascony with my brother Michael.

We were planning to continue on to Lyon for a special reason. Bocuse’s daughter is the wife of Jean-Jacques Bernachon, whose book La Passion du Chocolate I had just translated. I thought it would be fun to visit the Bernachons and read to them in French my English introduction to the book that was a few months away from publication. So it seemed like it would be a perfect celebration to have dinner chez Bocuse with my brother.

There was a huge storm in Gascony and our plane was delayed by several hours. I had made a reservation at Bocuse and was anxious to call and tell them we’d be several hours late. I was one of the first in a long line for the one public (and I mean public) phone, but I had to call information to get the number. To my amazement, the operator had trouble finding it and what's more had never heard of Paul Bocuse!

The people behind me in line were getting unruly and impatient, and the business man directly behind me asked me to hand over the phone. At first I refused (I am a New Yorker after all) but he explained that he would speak to the information operator in my behalf. And to my delight he soundly berated her for being French, living in Lyon, and here I was, an American, who knew about one of the greatest chefs in all of France of which she was toute à fait ignorant. He got the number and we got our reservation moved up a couple of hours.

Chef Bocuse made a lasting contribution to the culinary world. You can read about the many aspects of it all over the internet, but only here can you read this story.