Veteran chef to French leaders hangs up apron

Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:14pm EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - For 40 years, Bernard Vaussion has stirred and sauteed, poached and parboiled, reduced and roasted for six French presidents and their guests. Now it's time to hang up the apron.

The head chef at the Elysee Palace, Vaussion retired on Thursday after preparing his final lunch for President Francois Hollande: crab with celery remoulade, tournedos steak with mushrooms, and a flaky 'millefeuille' pastry with raspberries.

He will be replaced by Guillaume Gomez, 35, who has already worked for 17 years in the kitchen that serves up the best of French cuisine to help the head of state soothe domestic tensions and smooth the way in international diplomacy.

On his last shift in the 500-square-metre kitchen, where hundreds of copper saucepans - some dating from the time of 19th century King Louis Philippe - are put to the flame each day, Vaussion said his latest boss had been easy to please.

"There's not a lot that he doesn't like," Vaussion said of the Socialist Hollande. "He's someone who likes to eat."

The president has put on weight in his 17 months in office.

Vaussion, who learned his craft from his mother, also a cook, has overseen a staff of 20 for the last nine years, all men except for a female pastry apprentice.

All the presidents for whom he cooked were gourmands" (food lovers), Vaussion said diplomatically, but "Mr (Jacques) Chirac had an appetite that was a bit more developed".   Continued...

Bernard Vaussion (R), retiring head chef at the Elysee Palace, and his successor Guillaume Gomez (L), pose in the kitchens at the Elysee Palace in Paris, October 31, 2013. REUTERS/Martin Bureau/Pool