Monsieur Paul: Remembering the man and our most memorable meal

January 22, 2018 | By | 16 Replies More
The colorful and less than subtle facade of the Paul Bocuse Restaurant

The colorful (and not-to-subtle) exterrior of the Paul Bocuse Restaurant (Credit: Paul Bocuse Restaurant)

The world of gastronomy is in mourning,” the local newspaper in Lyon, France reported this past weekend.

Paul Bocuse—Monsieur Paul to his friends, his collaborators, and all those who had the chance to rub shoulders with him—died a few hours ago.”



The Michelin Guide announced his passing on Twitter:

 



Loss of a culinary giant

This larger than life culinary icon, known throughout the world for popularizing nouvelle cuisine, died on January 20th, 2018, only a few weeks shy of his 92nd birthday.

Chef Paul passed away in the same house in which he was born, where he lived his entire life, and where he created his legendary restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges. The house is located in the French countryside about 20 minutes outside of Lyon.

Arriving at the doors of the restaurant

Arriving at the doors of the restaurant

The elegant dining room at Paul Bocuse Restaurant

The elegant dining room at Paul Bocuse Restaurant

Known for the quality of its food, impeccable service, and stunning setting, the chef’s flagship restaurant has remarkably maintained three Michelin stars since 1965. This culinary giant has been called the “Chef of the Century” and the “Pope of Gastronomy.” He was surely one of the most prominent ambassadors of French cuisine. A virtual rock-star whose popularity never waned, he was one of the first chefs to come out of the kitchen, mingle with diners, and develop a brand.

The Chef’s meticulous attention to detail (and branding) is evident even in the beautiful tableware used in the restaurant.

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In 2014, we visited Lyon to write an article about this food-centric city’s markets and restaurants for the Chicago Tribune. We discovered firsthand how pervasive the chef’s influence has been in his hometown. The most famous market, Les Halles, where Bocuse did his shopping, had been renamed Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. The chef created five successful brasseries around his home city, each specializing in a different type of French cuisine, and left a special legacy: his world-class cooking school that trains young chefs.

The meal of a lifetime

Irene and Jerry outside the dining room, in front of a mural of Paul Bocuse

Irene and Jerry outside the dining room, in front of a mural of Paul Bocuse

During our visit to Lyon, we were fortunate to snag lunch reservations at the Bocuse flagship restaurant in Collonges. More than a meal, it was an experience and every aspect was incredible—the beauty of the dining room and tableware; the professionalism of the staff; the quality of the ingredients; the taste and creativity of the dishes that built upon classic preparations; and the beauty and artistry of its presentation.

Paul Bocuse’s obituary in the New York Times noted, “His signature dishes not only pleased the palate; they also seduced the eye and piqued the imagination.

We chose the price-fixed Classic menu and added one extra appetizer that we couldn’t resist (seared foie gras). Some of our photos may help tell the story of what made the meal so special:

Duck meat dodine ‘à l’ancienne,’ foie gras and pistachios at Paul Bocuse

Duck meat dodine à l’ancienne, foie gras and pistachios at Paul Bocuse

The bread plate

The bread plate: When in France, French bread, of course

Traditional Lyon quenelles of pike with crayfish, Nantua sauce

Traditional Lyon quenelles of pike with crayfish, Nantua sauce

Scallop of foie gras, pan-cooked, passion fruit sauce

Scallop of foie gras, pan-cooked, passion fruit sauce

Sea bass stuffed in puff pastry shell with Choron sauce served tableside for two

Sea bass stuffed in puff pastry shell with Choron sauce served tableside for two

Selection of fresh and matured cheese from La Mère Richard

The cheese course: A selection of fresh and matured cheese from La Mère Richard

When we thought we couldn’t eat one more bite, we were faced with a full desert selection (where you can choose anything and everything you want) called “Delicacies and Temptations.” Indeed, they were:

Some of the delicacies and temptations brought to our table at Paul Bocuse

Some of the delicacies and temptations brought to our table at Paul Bocuse 

There were too many to taste but we tried our best!

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Our one major misgiving

During our pilgrimage to Collonges, we had made arrangements to meet Monsieur Paul. The one disappointment of the day was finding out he wasn’t well enough to do so. He had been in ill health for some time and remained in his residence that day. After our meal, his Maitre D’ apologized and graciously took us on a tour through the wine cellar and busy kitchen.

Wine room in the basement of Paul Bocuse Restaurant

Wine room in the basement of Paul Bocuse Restaurant

Preparing cheese in the kitchen at Paul Bocuse

Preparing cheese in the kitchen at Paul Bocuse

In the taxi on our way back to our hotel, we vowed to return—as often happens when travelers have a sensational experience like this one. We discussed doing so each time we planned a subsequent trip to Europe—perhaps, for a milestone birthday or to share the experience with friends or family. Unfortunately, it never happened for one reason or another. The lunch was such a rhapsody that we could not even find the words to fully describe it on this blog until years later when we learned of the Chef’s passing.

We especially wish we had revisited that meal, that experience before this happened. But we, like many others, are comforted knowing that the standards he pioneered at L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges will transcend his death. And we will return. We still have to taste the truffle soup!


IF YOU GO

Paul Bocuse Restaurant, Collonges au Mont d’Or, France


A few tips for dining at Paul Bouse Restaurant:

  • Advance reservations are required. They can be made online.
  • The restaurant is open at both lunch and dinner. We opted for lunch for two reasons: Such a lengthy meal was easier to “endure” mid-day and the daylight hours allowed us to soak in the greenery and views on the way to Collonges au Mont d’Or.
  • Arriving a few minutes before our reservation allowed us time to look around; don’t miss the wonderful murals on the walls beyond the courtyard.
One of the murals outdoors at Paul Bocuse

One of the wonderful murals outdoors at Paul Bocuse

  • The meal at Paul Bocuse is expensive but the experience is priceless! There are both fixed price and a la carte menus. Both are available online as well as pricing information.
  • The dress code is casual elegant. Jackets are required for men.
  • Since you will likely be having wine with your dinner, take a taxi from Lyon rather than driving (even if you’ve rented a car.)

Caution: Watch this video of the restaurant on YouTube at your own risk. Hunger is likely to follow!


On GrubStreet: How Paul Bocuse Became the Most Legendary Chef in France 

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Category: FOOD & WINE

Comments (16)

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  1. Janice Chung says:

    Love this post and especially the video. The music made me want to visit France…right now! you were so fortunate to have had a meal there and it was too bad you couldn’t meet Monsieur Bocuse, but at least you got a tour of the cellar and kitchen!

  2. Susan Frost says:

    Wonderful tribute to Chef Paul Bocuse and review of his restaurant! Thanks Irene!

  3. Now I get it. I can totally see why L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges was such a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. Everything looks and sounds amazing. RIP Monsieur Paul.

  4. Lauren M says:

    Very sad loss. No matter whether someone is younger or older, goodbyes are so final and so sad.

  5. Donna Janke says:

    Wow! I thought “most memorable meal” in the title was a bit over the top until I read the article. What a special experience and wonderful memory.

  6. Karen Warren says:

    What an amazing restaurant – both the food and the decor. Looks as if Monsieur Paul has left a wonderfu legacy.

  7. What an amazing life Monsieur Paul had! To live almost 92 years and leave such a culinary legacy behind… And how blessed are you and Jerry to have experienced his famous restaurant :-).

  8. Jackie Smith says:

    What a beautiful tribute and what an exquisite memory! I am reading this just minutes before lunch time. . .need I say you’ve made my mouth water???

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