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The Evolution of French Cuisine

Food and Wine, New York Times, the BBC, Euronews, CNN, the Guardian, Forbes… One after the other, worldwide headlines announce that the “pope of gastronomy” has died at age 91 on January 20, 2018.

President of France Emmanuel Macron, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, and many other French prominent figures twitter that the world gastronomy is in mourning.

Paul Bocuse was born to a family of chefs. Many of his ascendants all the way to the 17th century had been chefs.

Chef Paul Bocuse loved butter, cream, and wine in cooking, which he used in his traditional cuisine for several decades (to learn more on “Traditional Cuisine”, please click HERE).

Evolution of French Cuisine

He received his first Michelin star in 1958 at his already then famous restaurant in Colonges au Mont d’Or, not very far from Lyon, France.

When Nouvelle Cuisine appeared (to learn more on “Nouvelle Cuisine”, please click HERE), he became a proponent and started using less butter and less cream... sometimes reluctantly, though! He very quickly understood that he could pave the way to success by adding fresh ingredients and beautiful artistry to the plate. The only criteria that defined Nouvelle Cuisine and bothered Mr. Bocuse was the small quantities. As much as dieticians were putting pressure for healthier eating habits in the 1970s in France, Mr. Bocuse was a generous man. He could not accept the trend that translated into “small on your plate, big on your bill”. And most French people, by the way, shied away from Nouvelle Cuisine and moved toward “Cuisine Moderne” (to learn more on “Cuisine Moderne”, please click HERE.)

By 1965, Paul Bocuse had received three Michelin stars for his restaurant L’Abbaye, which is the apogee in a chef’s career. Here in the United States, we had only nine three Michelin starred restaurants as of 01/2018. This ultimate achievement leads to tremendous pressure on the chef and his establishment. Recent history has shown that the removal of one star, one year, can lead to tragedy.

L’Abbaye de Colonges au Mont d’Or has kept its three stars for fifty straight years. I invite you to discover this incredibly beautiful and successful restaurant through the few pictures below, graciously provided by L’Abbaye de Colonges.

Paul Bocuse opened other very successful restaurants, brasseries, and institutes. He trained and mentored many chefs. 
Call him a giant, a hero, a master, an icon, a pioneer, an emblem, he was Chef Paul Bocuse, and he will be missed.


President of France Emmanuel Macron tweeted,

“Paul Bocuse is no longer here. Chefs are crying in their kitchens, at the Élysée and everywhere in France. French gastronomy will continue to make him proud.”

evolution of french cuisine through the years from traditional cuisine to nouvelle cuisine to cuisine nouvelle

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb tweeted,

“Paul Bocuse is dead; the gastronomy is mourning. Mr. Paul represented France. Simplicity and generosity. Excellence and art of living. The pope of gastronomy is leaving us. Long may our chefs in Lyon and all over the world cultivate the fruits of his passion.”


Anthony Bourdain tweeted,

"A hero to me from my earliest days as a cook. A great, great chef who was very kind to me. To have spent time with him was an honor and a dream come true. Rest In Peace."

Chef Jean J. ("John"), my own cousin, stated,


“We lost our master, our ambassador. His toque was his crown, and the sun will never set on his empire. The cult of good food, good ingredients… The religion of butter and taste. There was only one cuisine: his, therefore ours. His commitment was to make French cuisine shine beyond the borders. Mission accomplished – Paul Bocuse is probably one of the most famous names in the world. He will be missed.
Thank you, Mr. Paul.


Named after Paul Bocuse, les Halles de Lyon are a celebration of French gastronomy and a representation of the best quality products that France has to offer in Lyon, the heart of good food.


Do you feel you know more now about the Evolution of French Cuisine? You probably do, and you probably also realize that Chef Paul Bocuse played an important role in this movement.

I feel that this would not be complete without mentioning two more types of cuisine, Cuisine Gastronomique (to learn more on “Cuisine Gastronomique”, please click HERE), which is not at all what most of us think, and Cuisine Familiale, also known as family style French cooking (to learn more on “Cuisine Familiale”, please click HERE), and that is what I offer throughout the cooking section of this web site.

Knowing this terminology will greatly help you choose the right restaurant next time you are in France looking at a guide book to find the right place for lunch or dinner. You will most likely see those 5 categories listed, and that should give you a good start.

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