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Friday, September 13, 2013

Nouvelle Cuisine? Whatever happened to Nouvelle Cuisine? Who was Fernand Point?

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman
Updated December 2018
Nouvelle Cuisine Poster.
By Thorsten Schmitt through 123RF.
The creators of Nouvelle Cuisine.
Nouvelle Cuisine began in France in the late 1950s, its creators were a group of highly talented, and highly trained, young French chefs who sought to create a new, lighter, tastier and fresher style of French cuisine. All these chefs were influenced or taught by the most significant French chef of the mid-20th century Fernand Point (1897–1955).
These young chefs threw out the warming pans and lamps, the heavy sauces, the pre-prepared dishes kept in warming pans and the vast displays of Haute Cuisine, and they caused a massive row in the process.  Established and recognized chefs who had worked all their lives with traditional Haute Cuisine did not, readily, accept any changes. There were many arguments with many that were particularly vocal and public; the future of French cuisine was on the line.

The creators of Nouvelle Cuisine's view of a chef
from the era of traditional Haute Cuisine.
Photograph though Yay Micro

What was Nouvelle Cuisine?
The young chefs working on this new and initially unnamed cuisine were considered rebels, but in reality, they were modernizers. They came to their kitchens demanding the freshest produce, lighter sauces, and dishes cooked when ordered with no dish ever being reheated.  Traditional dishes and the spirit of the recipes behind the traditional dishes remained; after all these rebels were classically trained French chefs. Now, however, famous dishes would be fresher, healthier, lighter, tastier, and more colorful. New dishes came with new ingredients, new cooking methods, and new and different tastes were brought to the table.

Only the freshest fruits and vegetables.
Photograph by Tatuyoshi Toriu (Marucyan) through RF123.

The name Nouvelle Cuisine:

The name Nouvelle Cuisine was not used by any of the pioneering chefs, at least in the beginning; they had no name for what they were doing though they knew very well that they were making changes in France's traditional cuisine.  Then Henri Gault (1929 – 2000) and Christian Millau, (1928 – 2017) both respected food critics and journalists, gave this cuisine a name, Nouvelle Cuisine, the New Cuisine. Gault and Millau would go on to found in 1955 the now famous French food and hotel guide The Gault-Millau. The Gault-Millau guide is not well known outside France but, it remains the only serious alternative for anyone wishing a different view of grading restaurants to that offered by Michelin.

The years of the imitators
With the publicity that Nouvelle Cuisine received came a demand for more restaurants that served this new cuisine.  Nouvelle cuisine was suddenly in vogue, and what followed gave its creators got a bad rap. Along came chefs and restaurateurs who knew little of the ideas of the cuisine’s creators, but they saw success and wanted to cash in. These imposters tried to imitate the originators and served large plates with diminutive but highly decorated portions for high prices. In just a few years most of these pseudo-Nouvelle Cuisine restaurants were recognized for what they were, and they disappeared from the scene as quickly as they came. 

Phoney Nouvelle Cuisine main course of duck breast.
Photograph through Yay Micro.

Today's French culinary establishment.

Today the surviving founders of the real Nouvelle Cuisine are France’s grey-haired establishment and the owners and of some of the France finest restaurants.  Nevertheless, time moves on, and their place at the table is being taken by a new body of chefs who have been trained in the ideas that Fernand Point instilled. Nearly every single one of the rebels’ original aims has been achieved; they have created today’s Cuisine Française, modern French cuisine.
Even before the slow food movement, there was slow food.
The work of the chefs in this post laid the way for the slow food movement.
Photograph by Piti Tantaweevongs through  123RF.

Some of those who led in the creation of Nouvelle Cuisine:
Paul Bocuse.
Paul Bocuse, (1926 -2018) earned his three Michelin stars for his restaurant L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, 4 km (2.5 miles) north of the city of Lyon in 1965. It has held those three Michelin stars from 1965 with one of France’s most celebrated chefs Olivier Couvin at the helm since 2001.

Paul Bocuse was also the founder of the world’s most prestigious international French cooking competition the Bocuse d’Or World; it is the most prestigious award for French chefs in the world.  Additionally, Bocuse was the Chairman of the Institut Paul Bocuse Worldwide Alliance, the largest food and restaurant and hotel management educational institution in France.
The Troisgros Brothers
The Troisgros brothers Pierre and Jean built their Michelin three-star restaurant and unique boutique hotel the, Hôtel Moderne, in the city of Roanne in the department of the Loire in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. The Troisgros family have been behind restaurants in Moscow, Paris, and Tokyo and with the closing of their restaurant in Roanne in 2017 Pierre and Jean’s son Michel and his son César opened Le Bois sans Feuilles in Ouches, 8 km (5 miles) west of Roanne; it has its own three Michelin stars.

I look forward to dining at Le Bois sans Feuilles as its predecessor Le Maison Troisgros was the finest restaurant I have ever been to anywhere, period. Along with incredibly fresh, delicious and uniquely presented food; the service was low-keyed and serene, but absolutely perfect, with a master sommelier.

Alain Chapel

Alain Chapel (1937 – 1990) is no longer with us; but while he lived, he had his three-star Michelin restaurant Alain Chapel in Mionnay, north-east of Lyon.

 Alain Senderens

Alain Senderens, (1939 – 2017) was the executive chef at the Parisian Michelin three-star restaurant the Lucas Carton. In 2005, he closed the Lucas Carton, calling it pompous and returned his three Michelin stars. On the same premises, Senderens opened a new restaurant called Senderens, with Jérôme Banctel as the chef de cuisine. Senderens is not inexpensive, but it serves incredible meals at half the prices of the Lucas Carton.  Despite Alain Senderens’ original snub of the Michelin awards Michelin awarded his new restaurant, in 2006, two of the three stars that he had previously returned.

Michel Bras
Michel Bras took over his mother’s restaurant, and under his watch, it received two Michelin stars.  Then he built his own restaurant and hotel, named Michel Bras, which quickly gained 3 Star Michelin stars. Since 2009 Michel’s son Sebastien has run the kitchen in their restaurant called Le Suquet. Then, in 2017 Sebastien Bras shocked the food world in September when he decided to give up any form of Michelin rating, saying he no longer wanted to cook under the daily pressure of being judged by its inspectors.
Le Suquet is next to the town of Laguiole in the area of Aubrac in the department of Aveyron in the Midi-Pyrénées part of the new super region of Occitanie.

Francois Bise
Francois Bise is no longer with us, but his three-star Michelin Guide restaurant Auberge du Père Bise is set close by the beautiful Lake Annecy in the department of Haute-Savoie in the Rhône Alps. Under his daughter Sophie Bise, the Auberge du Père Bise had three stars and under its new owner the chef Jean Sulpice it already has two Michelin stars.

Georges Blanc

Georges Blanc built The Village Blanc with its Relais & Chateaux hotels, spa, and restaurants in the village of Vonnas in the department of Ain in the Auvergne - Rhône Alps. The George Blanc restaurant in the Village Blanc holds three Michelin stars and Georges’ sons Frédéric and Alexandre work with their father.

Michel Guérard

Michel Guérard built his Michelin three-star restaurant Le Prés d’Eugénie along with its hotel and spa in Eugénie-les-Bains, in the department of Landes, Nouvelle Aquitaine. Michel Guérard is also the creator of Cuisine Minceur, a lighter, healthier style of cooking that avoids most fat and cream.
Eugénie-les-Bains where Michel Guérard has his spa and restaurant developed alongside the original spa of Saint-Loubouer, close to Biarritz. The site was loved by Empress Eugénie, wife of Emperor Napoleon III and his restaurant is named after her. That original spa is now part of Eugénie-Les-Bains.

Louis Outhier

Louis Outhier created his Michelin three-star restaurant L'Oasis in Mandelieu-la-Napoule, 10km (6 miles) from Cannes. He was awarded his three Michelin Stars in 1969 and kept them until he retired in 1988.  The restaurant was vacant for ten years until one of his protégés Stephane Raimbault purchased the restaurant in 1999.  L'Oasis of Stephane Raimbault has since been awarded two Michelin stars and is run by the three brothers Stéphane, Antoine and François Raimbault.
Now you tell me what happened to Nouvelle Cuisine?

Fernand Point
The architect and prime mover.
Francois Bise, Georges Blanc, Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, Louis Outhier, and Pierre and Jean Troisgros all trained under Fernand Point.  Fernand Point’s own restaurant was La Pyramide in the town of Vienne, in the department of Isère, in the Auvergne - Rhône Alpes.  La Pyramide, was, in 1933, among the first restaurants to receive the Michelin three-star rating when they were first awarded in that year.  In 1933, there were just 19 French restaurants with three stars, now in 2018, there are 28. La Pyramide remains on the street name after Fernand Point and is owned and run by the chef Patrick Henriroux; it has two Michelin stars.

Ma Gastronomie
The only book attributed to Fernand Point; published posthumously.

Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013, 2018.

For more information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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