Interview with legendary French chef Paul Bocuse
Some call him the ‘Pope’ of French cuisine, others call him its grandfather, or even its emperor. We interview the living legend Paul Bocuse, whose list of accolades is as long as the menu of gourmet delicacies at his principal restaurant, l’Auberge au Pont de Collonges.
FE: If you can, please name three simple truths about cooking.
PB: Hygiene – rigour – choice of products.
And three myths.
A meal must include meat.
Food can be kept in the freezer for an indefinite period.
Bottled water is better than tap water.
If you were 18 again today would you still want to get into the restaurant business?
I’m not a businessman, I’m a chef – that is, I like working with my hands – so yes, if I were 18 again I would pursue the same career path.
Do you have one piece of advice for young chefs?
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again – because you will get better and better with every day.
Many chefs who create haute cuisine in their working life enjoy simple food at home. What is your most unlikely culinary guilty pleasure?
A good ‘Pot-au-Feu’ (meat stew) shared amongst friends.
What is the proudest achievement of your career?
The title of ‘Meilleur Ouvrier de France’ (‘Best Craftsman of France’).
Do you feel you have anything more to achieve?
A peaceful death.
Is French cuisine still the best in the world?
In my opinion, the bases of French cuisine are the best considering that a large number of foreign chefs draw inspiration from it or opt to carry out their training in our kitchens.
Whose food do you most enjoy eating?
I’m not fussy – I know that I prefer simple food to complicated food.
I’m cooking dinner for you tonight. Is there anything you won’t eat?
Molecular cuisine, perhaps.
How do you see French cuisine evolving in the next 50 years?
In the improvement of all the ingredients used in its production.
Why is the use of local ingredients so important in French cuisine?
Because each French region has land which represents its identity through the local produce and dishes that are grown and prepared there.
What is your single favourite product from the Lyon area?
Saveloy sausage with pistachio and truffles.
If you had to help someone to discover French food – someone who had never tried it before – which three dishes would you prepare for them? And which wines would you put with the meals?
• Fillet of sole with Fernand Point noodles – Pouilly-Fuissé
• Coq au vin – Chambertin
• Œufs à la Neige – Baumes de Venise
How would you like to be remembered, as an innovator or as an inspirational teacher?
As a chef who passed on his knowledge to younger generations.
What are your favourite places to be in France? Please name five if possible.
Alsace – The Bordeaux region – The Côte d’Azur – Britanny – The Basque Coast
And your favourite city?
Favourite seaside resort?
Favourite rural place?
Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or – my village.
What is the best holiday in France you ever enjoyed?
Corsica with Jean Troisgros.
Why should people come to Lyon on holidays? Besides dining at Paul Bocuse, of course!
The richness of its cuisine thanks to the wonderful produce cultivated in its surrounding area. It is also a very beautiful city, wonderfully situated in proximity to both the mountains and the sea.
For more fascinating interviews with French chefs visit our sister publication, Taste of France!
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