Chef Paul Bocuse has been a culinary icon for decades. His restaurant in Lyon, France, has been a temple for food lovers since the 1960s. I first learned of him back in the late 1970s when I was at the beginning of my food career. At the time, I was looking for a way to get to France to study with some of the masters of French cuisine. I was taken to a book signing by André Leon de Leon who had a restaurant in the San Fernando Valley call Mon Grenier (My Attic). André was trying to help me secure a position in France and took me to meet Bocuse. Bocuse was in LA cooking at L'Ermitage restaurant at what was billed Le Diner de Cent. André pleaded my case, in French, to Bocuse. His reply, "Impossible, vraimont impossible." That was that.
My next encounter was in 1978. I was staying in a little village one hour outside of Lyon, France call Loyette. The Antonon's operated a restaurant there called La Terasse. It was a lovely country restaurant located on the Soane river and boasted one start Michelin. The chef-owner Gerard had taken myself, wife Mary and 8 month old kid on while we waited for our visa to go to London. I helped in the kitchen and worked at his country farm to learn and earn our keep.
Part of the weekly ritual was to drive to the markets in Lyon to pick up supplies. On one of those trips, Gerard pointed out a car parked at a bistro. It was the Bocuse market van. Gerard said, let's go in and I'll show you something. Inside Chef Bocuse was seated round at table, at 6:00 AM, with a group of cronies having a beer.
The last time I saw Paul Bocuse was at a dinner celebrating Julia Child. Chef Michel Richard had organized a grand gathering of chefs from around the world to thank Julia Child for her promotion of French Cuisine. The event was called Merci Julia and was held in 1993. There was the inevitable photo op. After a champagne sabering, all the chefs gathered for a group photo. I had a "moment" then as Chef Paul Bocuse, was behind me in the photo, vraimont possible!
Chef Michael Hutchings