He revolutionized French cuisine and became a legend. As famed chef Paul Bocuse turns 90, 'nouvelle cuisine' still offers a fresh perspective on food. Here's a look back at his approach - and more recent food trends.
France is renowned for its innovative fashion and food culture. While it's no longer a new trend, so-called "nouvelle cuisine" - new cuisine - is still considered modern. This approach focused on fresh ingredients, reduced cooking times to preserve minerals and vitamins, and put emphasis on delivering a high-quality final product. In the 1970s, this style established itself as a standard in French gastronomy. The most prominent representative of nouvelle cuisine was Paul Bocuse.
Paul Bocuse's innovative approach
Born on February 11, 1926, Paul Bocuse's ancestors have been in the culinary business since the 18th century. He was already involved in his family's restaurant by the age of nine. At the beginning of the 1940s, he left school and began training to become a professional chef in Lyon. After World War II, he went on to learn in different restaurants in Paris and Lyon. In 1956, Bocuse finally returned to his home town, Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or, near Lyon, to pursue the family business.
After his father's death in 1959, Bocuse restructured the family's traditional restaurant and called it L'Auberge Paul Bocuse. Within a year, he earned his first Michelin star, with the second one awarded in 1962 and a third one coming in 1965. His restaurant, since renamed L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges, has obtained three stars every year ever since - a record.
'A large restaurant is like theater'
In the 70s, the French chef further developed his nouvelle cuisine. He would always use fresh products, based on seasonal availability and regional traditions. He broke with old cooking principles and began exchanging recipes with colleagues in Lyon. This resulted in a group of 22 chefs known as "La bande à Bocuse." An international cooking competition called the "Bocuse d'Or" was created in 1987 and takes place every two years. It's the equivalent of the Olympics for star chefs worldwide.
"A large restaurant is like theater," Bocuse famously once said. After cooking, he would leave the kitchen to celebrate with his guests in his restaurant.
The legendary chef has built over the decades a gastronomical empire which includes Bocuse-named restaurants, bakeries and boutiques in Europe, the US, Japan and Australia. From cookbooks to mugs, along with bottles of champagne, fans can find all kind of products bearing his famous name.
The chef of the century no longer cooks
Paul Bocuse described his approach as "la cuisine du marché," market cuisine. This art form has been reaching its limits: Plates are increasingly turned into elaborately decorated "paintings," with small portions and little sauce. This is not necessarily what Bocuse had in mind. According to his principles, dishes should taste like the ingredients they are made of. That's why he used to insist on going to the market himself, to make sure his products were fresh.
Suffering from Parkinson's disease, the great chef has now left the kitchen. Yet Paul Bocuse's revolutionary concepts have made him a legend - and he remains one of the most important French chefs of the 20th century.