PARIS – Paul Bocuse, a master of French nouvelle cuisine and legend of the culinary world, received his final farewell on Friday as hundreds of mourners gathered for his funeral at the cathedral in France’s southeastern city of Lyon.
Friends, relatives, officials and hundreds of chefs filled the building – with a capacity to seat 1,000 – to say goodbye to the famous chef, dubbed the “Pope of French cooking,” who died on Saturday at the age of 91.
Scores of admirers queued up in the rain to follow the event on a large screen outside the city’s Gothic-style cathedral.
Dressed in their kitchen whites, hundreds of Bocuse’s former colleagues turned out to pay their respects, including Alain Ducasse, 28-Michellin-starred Joël Robuchon, and Daniel Boulud.
Chef Philippe Etchebest said the gathering was sad and feeling “orphaned” because it had lost a teacher and innovator who knew how to unite everyone in the kitchen.
Interior minister and former Lyon mayor, Gérard Collomb, and chairman of Olympique Lyonnais soccer club Jean-Michel Aulas were also in attendance.
Bocuse, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years, died on Jan. 20 in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, the town on the outskirts of Lyon where he was born on Feb. 11, 1926.
It was there he embarked on his culinary career at his family’s restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont, which was later renamed to “Paul Bocuse” and acquired three Michellin stars under his guiding hand.
Bocuse rose to international fame back in the mid-1960s at the start of the nouvelle cuisine revolution, when a host of chefs stripped back cuisine classique and put an emphasis on fresh, healthy produce and delicate presentation.
His signature dishes touted innovative design and captivating presentation, but never compromised on taste, as epitomized by his classic sea-bass in delicate pastry.
He was declared “Chef of the Century” by the Culinary Institute of America, one of the world’s more important culinary institutions.
As a driving force behind nouvelle cuisine, Bocuse was a great source of pride for France and its people.