Bon Anniversaire Chèr Chef Bocuse

Happy 80/81 Birthday Dear Chef BocuseWhen I read today’s tribute to Paul Bocuse in the New York Times, which mentioned how his name is known all over the world, it made me think of a very funny and delightful story which proved the reverse in his very own backyard! About 16 years ago, I invited my brother to visit my friends the Daquin’s in Auch (Gascony). The plan was to continue on to Lyon where I wanted to read the Bernachon’s the introduction I had written to the revision/translation of their book “A Passion for Chocolate,” and then enjoy dinner chez their Bocuse in-laws . The weather was bad the day of our departure and the inter-airplanes were delayed in their departure. I knew we would have to make a later reservation at the restaurant and dashed for the phone. A long line had already formed and I, at the head of it, was responsible for holding it up significantly. This is because when I called Lyon information, to my absolute astonishment, the operator had no idea who Paul Bocuse was and couldn’t find the number for the restaurant. Finally the gentleman behind me in outraged and indignant disgust asked for the phone and nearly screamed into it: “Madame—this woman has come all the way from America to eat at this chef’s restaurant and VOUS, you—a French woman living in the same town as this restaurant has never even heard of it. For shame!” Clearly national pride was at stake here. No one on the line objected to our taking the time to deal with this issue--if anything, there was a murmur of assent. Somehow the operator was motivated to come up with the number, I made the reservation for an hour and a half later, and had my second memorable meal Chez Bocuse with an unforgettable story to tell on the side. I've had many reasons to be thankful for my ability to speak French--but never more than to have been able to enjoy this rare and amusing exchange!