Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Most Influential Chef of The 20th Century

Fernand and Maire Louise Point and the brigade of La Pyramide

A few weeks ago I attended an event at The Astor Center in NYC where Ferran Adria, the guest speaker, was introduced as "The Most Influential Chef" of the 20th Century. While there is no arguing that Chef Adria has been tremendously influential, a chance encounter with the words "La Pyramide" during a search for something else, reminded me that if there is one chef who deserves to be called "The Most Influential Chef of the 20th Century" there are many more.

Auguste Escoffier was a giant: Alice Waters is a giantess. No one did a better job of inspiring Americans to take up French cooking than Julia Child while Paul Bocuse made it very clear that the epitome of the chef de cuisine was a highly polished professional who is as  passionately devoted to commerce as he is to craft. And looking ahead, I think that when the votes are cast for most influential chef of the 21st Century,  anyone who has ever heard or read his explanation of how he constructs his cuisine will have to agree that one of the clear winners is going to be Grant Achatz. The man is a  brilliant culinary theoretician.

But out of the gaggle of the most influential chefs of any century, my personal favorite is the chef who was the mentor of many of the great chefs who emerged from the devastation of WWII  into a newly globalized culture and who brought to us that radical elision of  Haute Western & Asian cooking and dining modality,  La Nouvelle Cuisine. It was Fernand Point who inspired  Paul Bocuse, Alan Chapel and countless others to put quality of ingredients and technique above all other culinary considerations especially, and most significantly, the classical culinary coda the specified what went with what, and in what order, and what they should each be named. There is so much hyperbole about chefs in the media these days that it's pretty difficult to take any praise of anyone seriously. But ask any of the current great chefs what they think of Fernand Point and you will hear of  a dieu de la cuisine.


Not bad hyperbole for a Saturday morning, eh? BdG

9 comments:

paul said...

I had meal at la pyramide in '99, it was awesome

CosmosDad said...

Influential? I am surprised the first word from your lips is not "Fergus"....

Kevin said...

I concur.

Bob del Grosso said...

It's funny but I had to run a search for "Fergus" to figure out who Bill and Kevin were referring to. I'm odd that way, and often strangely out of touch with what others are buzzing about. It's not that I hadn't ever heard of Fergus Henderson, I just never got around to learning what he was about.

CosmosDad said...

I'm not a reader of the publication, 'Not That There's Anything Wrong With That', but the best article I've found is here - absolutely offal. Enjoy.
http://www.mensjournal.com/the-most-influential-chef

(FergusStock. I need say no more. )
Eric

Kevin said...

Bob,
Actually I was concurring with your nomination of Fernand Point, although for a couple of years the tag-line on Seriously Good was a Henderson quote: "Do not be afraid of cooking, as your ingredients will know, and misbehave."

Tags said...

If you have a copy of "Secret Ingredients - The New Yorker Book of Food & Drink," there's a great essay written in 1949 by Joseph Wechsberg called "The Finest Butter & Lots of Time," about an encounter with Fernand Point at La Pyramide shortly after WWII.

If you're lucky enough to have Wechsberg's "Trifles Make Perfection," There's also a great story about Henri Soule called "Ambassador in the Sanctuary." I'd be happy to lend you either book.

I would've posted sooner, but I've been offline for over a month and had to replace my computer.

Bob del Grosso said...

Tags
Joseph Wechsberg sounds familiar. Didn't he write a book with trout and truffles in the title? Must look this up...

Tags said...

Blue Trout and Black Truffles.

Of course, I cheated -

http://www.josephwechsberg.com/html/joseph-wechsberg-books-English.html