To understand why a luncheon at the Paul Bocuse Restaurant (L’Auberge Du Pont De Collonges) was so important and special to me, you to need to understand the reverence and admiration I have for this icon of the culinary and business world, Monsieur Bocuse. My dear friend and our host, French Master Chef, Hervé Laurent, knew and made one of my dreams come true.
Paul Bocuse’s lineage of cooks dates back to the 17th century. However, for over fifty plus years, he has brought classic French culinary art to perfection. As a youth, he received the revered Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best French Artisan). In his various establishments, he has collected over fifty Michelin stars. The Paul Bocuse Restaurant has held three Michelin stars since 1965 – the longest in Michelin star history.
At the same time, he has promoted classical French cuisine worldwide. Luna Delsol said in an interview: “He was the first chef to conquer Japan with and for French cuisine, opening several bakeries, patisseries and sales outlets for food products under his own label. Over more than three decades, he organized and coordinated with French cooking courses of the world-famous Tsuji occupational school in Osaka, in partnership with his late friend, Shizuo Tsuji.
“In 1982, with his friends Gaston Leôtre and Roger Vergé, he set up three restaurants and a bread and pastry shop at the French pavilion in Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The establishments are now under the management of his son, Jerome, with the title of president and general director.”
Within Lyon itself, Bocuse has four brasseries downtown, the North, the South, the East and the West, and restaurants Fond-Rose and Marguerite. These offer different regional cuisines. With Hervé, in 2009, I dined at the North and the South. The combination of these six restaurants serves over two thousand meals daily. Bocuse always sees opportunities and does not hesitate to act. He now has introduced his take on French-style fast food in two Quest Express outlets, one in Lyon and the other in Villefranche-sur-Saône. And in a natural progression, he has ventured into the hotel business with his forty-room Docks Quest.
What first sparked my interest in this icon was the Institut Paul Bocuse, originally called the Paul Bocuse School of Culinary Arts. I knew Hervé had taught there, and I knew several chefs who had received their credentials at the school. Apparently Paul Bocuse is known for having as much respect for the people who work for him as the guests he serves. He expects the best and has the ability to inspire the best from those who work with him. Chefs who received diplomas from the Institute were talented, skillful and passionate.
In 2000, Hervé started suggesting that I attend Bocuse d’Or. Then, in 2008, he reminded me that Bocuse was aging and if I wanted to meet him, I had better attend. In 2009, I attended my first Bocuse d’Or and I’m hooked. It took a genius of a man to bring together this worldwide competition of young chefs to compete in what seems like a Culinary Olympics. I did have the opportunity to meet Paul Bocuse in 2009, and I will always be grateful.This year, 2015, marked its twenty-fourth year, and it just keeps getting better.
Hervé has shared some biographical information on Bocuse:
He has always lived above the restaurant where he was working with his wife. Now, due to age, he is on the first floor, but still on site.
He was responsible for encouraging chefs to step out of the kitchen into the dining room to see responses and reactions to dishes.
Now, let’s get back to our luncheon. Hervé had arranged this luncheon for Sherrie Wilkolaski and me. We drove four kilometers north of Lyon; the Paul Bocuse Restaurant backs up to the banks of the Saône, near the Pont de Collonges. It is open every day of the year. I don’t know what I expected, but I was overwhelmed by the colorful welcome. Both Sherrie and I were struck by the tributes to such food icons as Julia Child and James Beard.
When we stepped inside, the restaurant exceeded my expectations. I am not new to three-Michelin-star dining, but this was more than I could have imagined. After we ordered, but before the kitchen got busy, we were able to tour the kitchen with Chef Gilles Reinhardt. It was buzzing with activity and we were delighted to have this opportunity. Our three-hour-plus luncheon was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ever.
I’ve included photos of our dishes, but I knew I had to order the Soup with Truffles. I first read a version of this recipe in 2011 and enjoyed the results. But that was not like trying the real thing. This particular dish was created in 1975 for the president of France, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and his wife, at a luncheon given at the Élysée Palace. Several Michelin-star chefs were in attendance when Mr. Bocuse received the Légion d’Honneur on that occasion. When I saw the soup on the menu, I was ecstatic. Because I wanted to be sure I included the correct translation, I purchased the book, My Best, by Paul Bocuse, with the recipe printed out. The soup was divine.
Soup with Truffles VGE
Serves 4 – Preparation time: 30 minutes – Cooking time: 30 minutes
Drink Pairing: Bollinger R.D. 1990 champagne, a Frédéric Émile Riesling vintage 2001 from the Trimbach domain, or a sherry.
2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
5½ ounces (150g) skinless chicken breast
3½ ounces (100 g) celeriac
Heads of 8 button mushrooms, 1¼-inches (3-cm) in diameter
3 ounces (80 g) fresh truffles
¼ cup (60 ml) white Noilly Prat
2 ounces (60g) cooked foie gras
9 ounces (250 g) store-bought flaky (puff) pastry
1 egg yolk
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
Bring stock to a boil in saucepan.
Lightly salt chicken breast and place in stock. Leave (sic) it simmer for six minutes, then drain. Put the stock for the soup aside.
Peel the celeriac and the carrot. Cut the celeriac en matignon (first into ½-inch [12-mm] slices, then into dice). In the same way, cut the carrot en matignon (first into ½-inch [12-mm] slices, then into dice).
Cut the mushroom heads into thick slices, then into strips, and then dice. Mix them with celeriac and carrot.
Cut the truffles into ver file slices.
The quality of the truffles is important in this soup. If possible, choose fresh truffles. Out of season, use preserved truffles. Allow 1 ounce (30 g) of preserved truffles per person, instead of ¾ ounce (20 g) of fresh truffles.
Pour 1 tablespoon of Noilly Prat into each of four ovenproof porcelain bowls that hold 1 to 1¼ cups (250 to 300 ml). Add 1 rounded tablespoon of the vegetables en matignon, divide among the bowls.
Cut the chicken breast into ½-inch (12-mm) slices, then dice.
Divide it among the bowls.
In the same way, add the slices of truffle.
Cover with the stock, stopping ¾-inch (2-cm) below the brim.
Roll out the flaky pastry on the work surface. Cut out four circles, 5 to 5½ inches (12 to 14 cm) in diameter. *Place a pastry circle on each bowl. Turn the edge down over the brim, pressing lightly to seal it.
Mix the egg yolk with a teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush it over the pastry. Place in the oven, and cook for 20 minutes. Cut the edge of the pastry with the point of a knife. Serve at once.
*To cut the pastry circles to the right size, measure the diameter of your bowls and add at least 1¼-inches (3 cm). Then place something round of that size (a bowl, a saucer, a metal disk) over the pastry and cut around it.
This dish is relatively easy to make and delicious to enjoy. The U.S. does have a lot of truffles available in the Northwest, especially in Oregon. Many are native to Oregon and others have had starters from France.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my short tribute to Paul Bocuse and been able to vicariously enjoy our visit to his restaurant through the photographs. It would take a book to pay an accurate tribute to all of Monsieur Bocuse’s accomplishments.
Thank you, Hervé Laurent, for treating us to this magnificent afternoon.
Let me know if you make the soup or visit his restaurant.
Images by Maralyn D. Hill