The picture of more than 1,500 of the world’s top chefs gathered en masse in chef's whites in the Saint-Jean Cathedral in Lyon on Friday (Jan 26) for Paul Bocuse's funeral should provide a fair snapshot of the legend affectionately known as the ‘pope’ of French gastronomy. At age 91, the chef and rebel who had sparked a revolution with his Nouvelle Cuisine in the 1970s, passed away—in the room he was born, located above his restaurant L’Auberge de Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or—leaving many deeply saddened.

An outpouring of reflections and condolences from all over the world washed across social media that weekend. In Singapore, Jaan’s Kirk Westaway lamented on his personal Instagram account “what a sad day” it was, adding how Bocuse was “an inspiration to all of us”. Odette’s Julien Royer shared similar sentiments, saying how “we owe (Bocuse) so much”. Here, he and some of our favourite chefs share some of their fondest memories of the late Paul Bocuse.

“I’ve only seen him twice. And shook his hand once. The first time I met him in Lyon 10 years ago, I was speechless. I mean, he is such a legend. In 2015, I cooked with Christophe Muller, representing Paul Bocuse, at Jaan. We cooked all the Bocuse classics, including the truffle soup VGE (named after French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, whom he served this dish to in 1975), and the timeless poularde de Bresse a la creme (Bresse chicken with a cream sauce). I had to order 11 kg of truffle just for the soup alone. Cooking that dinner was such an honour!”
—Julien Royer, chef-owner, Odette

“The first time I met Paul Bocuse in 2009 I was terrified. All of the legendary chefs stop into Lyon during the Bocuse d’Or to catch up, chat and basically blow off steam during that period. I was bumping into culinary gods at every turn. By the time I finally saw Monsier Paul, I was already on stage and well into hosting day one of the competition. He pulled me in to take a photo together since it was my very first time to host his competition and all my nervousness disappeared. I was surrounded by culinary greatness but realised that we all share a love of F&B and with that comes hard work and determination, but above all else, we’re all in it to have a good time and make people feel at home. 

Since that year, I’ve been welcomed into the Bocuse d’Or family and return every year for the competition including some of the preliminary rounds Bocuse d’Or Europe, New York and Asia. And I’ve see the audience come and stand in awe at his (Bocuse’s) presence because he lived his life big and bold.”
—Angela May, culinary designer, Déliciae Hospitality Management

“My wife and I were in Europe for our honeymoon trip in year 2000. We had made a lunch reservation at the late Paul Bocuse’s restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges in Lyon. But we were about an hour late and were badly under-dressed (in t-shirts and jeans) as we were travelling between cities. However, we were graciously welcomed by Paul Bocuse when we arrived at his restaurant. Regardless of our dressing that day, he showed us to our seats, sat down and chatted with us, and brought us on a mini kitchen tour. 

He showed us how not to judge a book by its cover, and that’s one of my fond memories of him. Regardless of who they are or how they are dressed, he treated everyone like a prestigious guest, with the best food and services. To me, he is more than just a good cook, he is an amazing chef, a leader, a mentor to all in the culinary world."
—Emmanuel Stroobant, chef-owner, Saint Pierre

“This dates back 22 years when I was in a culinary school in France, which is where I first met Chef Paul Bocuse. I’ve been admiring him since then, and his restaurant, the Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or in Lyon, is the first French restaurant I have ever visited. He came to our school to give lessons and I was truly amazed by how sincere he was in corresponding with us during the lessons. He even spent extra time to take photos with us and gave us his autographs. At the end of the semester, all students were given the opportunity to train on the job at an actual restaurant, decided by the school according to students’ performance. Of course, I hoped for an opportunity to learn at his restaurant but, unfortunately, I wasn’t selected, and went to a two-Michelin starred restaurant instead. 

Bocuse was the pioneer of nouvelle cuisine and had made great changes and innovations to French cuisine with his cooking philosophy. He was also the one who established the custom for chefs to greet diners … I believe this is one of his greatest achievements in enhancing the chef’s status at that time. Those who have experienced his love inherit his ambition … and that includes myself.”
— Kenji Yamanaka, chef-owner, Beni

"My favourite memory of chef Paul Bocuse was definitely from the Bocuse d'Or finals in Lyon in 2009, when I was a representative for Singapore. I still remember Bocuse not feeling well but he still accompanied all of us throughout the long duration of the competition—every day. 

I took a photo with him and he gave me an autograph cookbook. Although he didn’t speak English, I could feel his passion for French cuisine and his influence…. I am thankful to Chef Bocuse for creating a platform for every cook and chef in the world (to shine).” 
—Jason Tan, chef-owner, Corner House

“It was in1995, when I was working as an apprentice at three-Michelin starred Restaurant Frédy Girardet, in Lausanne, Switzerland. Both chefs Paul Bocuse and Pierre Troisgros were in town for a six-hands dinner with Girardet and were seated at the chef’s table in the kitchen, reserved for special industry friends. The head chef at that time was the late Philippe Rochat, who was tasked with plating the dishes for the chefs. He was just about to serve two of the restaurant’s signature soups, but as he turned the corner where the large combi ovens were, we crashed into each other and the soups spilled. Both Rochat and Girardet cursed loudly and apologised to the guests, while both guest chefs laughed good-naturedly. Bocuse reassured us and told us ‘such things happen, and there is no need to rush’. 

This incident broke the ice in the kitchen and lightened the tension. Girardet declared in front of all that I would be ‘forever remembered by these great chefs as the guy who spilled their dish in the kitchen of Restaurant Frédy Girardet’. Needless to say, I just wanted to bury my head in the ground. But I was also impressed with how good natured, encouraging and inspiring these great chefs were.”
—Konstantino Blokbergen, founder, Firebake