Cooking With Thomas Keller

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Fernand Point was not one of your gym-going, globe-trotting, Ph.D.-equipped chefs. He was a roast-chicken-for-breakfast-eating, two-bottles-of-Champagne-at-lunch-drinking, big fat (no way around it) guy, the stereotype of the mid-20th-century French chef and almost without question the most influential of his time.

His time was on either side of World War II, and his place was La Pyramide, about a half-hour south of Lyons, often considered the mecca of French cuisine. During the war itself, he fed refugees from the north and then closed for six months rather than feed the occupying forces. His lifestyle was legendary, as was his cooking. (His wine cellars, too — though they were overseen by Mme. Mado Point. They had their share of great Burgundies and Bordeaux but also brought respectability to Rhone wines, even the still-overlooked whites. Mme. Point also ran the restaurant after her husband’s death in 1955, by most reports brilliantly.) Everyone ate at La Pyramide, or wanted to. Half the great French chefs of the next generation — men like Bocuse, Chapel, Outhier and Vergé — trained under him.

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