CIA honors French superstar Bocuse

Culinary stars and educators celebrate Leadership Awards Gala in New York

Fine-dining chefs, restaurant veterans, chain pioneers, culinary educators and what Richard Marriott, chairman of Host Hotels and Resorts Inc., called “a galaxy of Michelin stars” celebrated the legacy of Paul Bocuse and other honorees at The Culinary Institute of America’s fifth annual Leadership Awards Gala in New York Wednesday.

Arguably the modern era’s first celebrity chef, Bocuse was honored by a who’s-who of the culinary world as “Chef of the Century” at the “Augie” awards, named for the legendary French chef, Auguste Escoffier.

In presenting the award, CIA president Tim Ryan said Bocuse spearheaded the Nouvelle Cuisine movement and in the process transformed the position of chef from “slave” to restaurant owner.

SLIDE SHOW: The Culinary Institute of America’s fifth annual Leadership Awards Gala [3]

Bocuse, chef and owner of the Michelin three-star L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges in Lyon, France, and also of numerous brasseries, bistros and other restaurants throughout the world, is renowned both for his talents as a chef and restaurateur and for his marketing acumen. In addition to being a longtime Champagne spokesman, he founded and named after himself what is perhaps the most prestigious international culinary competition, the Bocuse d’Or.

Also honored at the event were chefs Michael Chiarello and Jerome Bocuse, who were named alumni of the year, and Daniel Boulud, who won the Chef of the Year award.

Marriott, who also is chairman of the board of the Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities, was presented with the Frances L. Roth Award. A CIA spokesman said the award recognizes “a business executive in the hospitality and foodservice industry whose vision, creativity, and entrepreneurship meet the highest standards of excellence and leadership.”

Chiarello gained acclaim with his Tra Vigne restaurant in St. Helena Calif., and is currently the chef at Bottega Ristorante in Yountville, Calif. He also is a television celebrity chef who most recently competed on Bravo TV’s Top Chef Masters.

In accepting his award, Chiarello recalled when he was cooking massive crocks of beurre blanc in the presence of Bocuse and another culinary luminary, Roger Vergé of the famed Moulin de Mougins in Mougins, France.

Chiarello said Bocuse, who was skeptical of Chiarello’s high-heat technique, gave him the highest possible compliment when he tasted the sauce and simply said “bon” — French for “good.”

Jerome Bocuse is Paul Bocuse’s son and head of operations of Chefs de France restaurant at Epcot in Orlando, Fla.

Boulud is the chef-owner of a fine-dining restaurant empire that includes his flagship Restaurant Daniel in New York, three other restaurants in that city, and operations in Miami, London, Beijing Singapore and Palm Beach, Fla.

Boulud praised Bocuse for his spirit of camaraderie with other chefs as well as for his talent for self-promotion, saying he never missed an opportunity to be on television.

In fact, Boulud, who like Bocuse is a native of the Lyon area, said he was speaking to his parents over the weekend and they said Bocuse was on television packing his suitcase to come to New York to receive the award.

In his acceptance speech, Bocuse did, in fact, thank the Champagne company that he promoted for decades. He also thanked the American people.

He said that as a soldier during World War II, he fought on the side of free France and was wounded by the Germans. He spent the rest of the war in an American field hospital, where he received blood transfusions. So, to this day, he said, he has American blood in his veins.

Bocuse also praised The Culinary Institute of America and said the school, which he called the best culinary school in the world, was training the next generation of chefs.

The awards were held at the Marriott Marquis hotel as part of an annual fundraiser for scholarships.

Dessert included presentation of a show cake by Duff Goldman, who graduated from the CIA in 1998 and is the star of the Food Network’s Ace of Cakes. The five-foot tall cardamom and pistachio carrot cake was made in the shape of an Augie.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]