Pierre Troisgros, Renowned French Restaurateur, Dies at 92
France has lost another of its culinary giants. Pierre Troisgros, the patriarch of a multigenerational family of chefs and restaurateurs, died on Wednesday at his home in Le Coteau, France. He was 92.
His grandson Thomas Troisgros said in an email that the cause was a heart attack. “He was in his kitchen at Le Coteau waiting for his friends, to play cards,” the grandson said.
His death, like that of Paul Bocuse and Joël Robuchon two years ago, further thinned the ranks of a generation of influential, game-changing French chefs.
Pierre Troisgros was born on Sept. 3, 1928, in Chalon-sur-Saone, a village in the Burgundy region of France, and grew up in the kitchen. His parents, Jean-Baptiste and Marie (Badaut) Troisgros, owned a traditional French country inn and restaurant, Hôtel Moderne, in the town of Roanne, near Lyon.
A genial man with a signature mustache, Mr. Troisgros and his older brother, Jean, honed their culinary skills working for the legendary Fernand Point at La Pyramide in Vienne, along with others of their cohort, including Mr. Bocuse, who became a lifelong friend. (Jean Troisgros died in 1983 at 56, also of a heart attack.)
The Troisgros brothers eventually took charge of their parent’s restaurant and transformed it into a gastronomic destination, at the cutting edge of the culinary revolution known as la nouvelle cuisine. That style was influenced by the austere finesse of Japanese cooking and known, at its extreme, for tiny portions on huge white plates, a caricature in which the Troisgros brothers never indulged.
Their contribution was to showcase the innate flavors of seasonal ingredients, and to pare down some of the overblown creations buried in thick sauces that had come to represent French haute-cuisine.
It earned them Michelin stars and top ratings from other guides. And it put the restaurant high on the list for tourists starting in the 1970s, many of whom, like safari-goers ticking off the “big five,” went to France mainly to experience its top restaurants, collecting souvenir menus along the way.
Les Frères Troisgros, as the restaurant became known, earned its first Michelin star in 1955 and the most prestigious third star in 1968. That year, Christian Millau, an influential French critic, named it “the best restaurant in the world.”
R.W. Apple Jr., a New York Times correspondent and dedicated gastronome, became a regular at the restaurant and in 2001 wrote a long appreciation in which he said that for him, Troisgros maintained its allure “without sacrificing the familial warmth and the clean, fresh, unaffected approach to cooking that first won it renown.”
Laurent Tourondel, who is from the region and owns L’Amico in Manhattan along with other restaurants, grew up dining at Troisgros with his parents before working in its kitchen with Mr. Troisgros for two years.
“His approach was precise, traditional, always seasonal; he was very particular about game birds, yet he was also a pioneer,” Mr. Tourondel said.
David Liederman, the creator of David’s Cookies, who also worked in the Troisgros kitchen, as did a number of American chefs, said Mr. Troisgros had lightened the classics simply and elegantly.
Daniel Boulud, who knows the family well, cited the chef’s respect for tradition, the precision of his food, his unpretentious approach and his ability to be trendsetting without being trendy.
The restaurant’s most famous dish was salmon with sorrel sauce (saumon à l’oseille). In the Troisgros kitchen the sauce was not thickened with starch but depended on well-reduced sauce ingredients and a touch of cream. Mr. Boulud pointed out that the dish was cooked in a nonstick pan, noting that Mr. Troisgros was among the first chefs to use one.
Alain Ducasse, the chef and restaurateur who is part of a generation that followed in the footsteps of Mr. Troisgros, Mr. Bocuse and others, said in a statement that the Troisgros brothers had developed the basis for nouvelle cuisine, but that their food was never austere or posed.
Mr. Troisgros’ wife, Olympe Forté, died in 2008. After the death of Jean Troisgros, Pierre’s son Michel entered the kitchen and continues to run the business along with other enterprises. In 2017 he relocated the hotel, renamed Maison Troisgros, and its restaurant to the village of Ouches near Roanne. The family still owns a brasserie in Roanne and is involved with restaurants in other places, including Paris and Tokyo.
Claude Troisgros, another son, had restaurants in Manhattan from 1992 to 1997, notably C.T. in the Flatiron district. Mr. Troisgros’ daughter, Anne-Marie, owned a restaurant as well, and several of his seven grandchildren joined the dynasty’s restaurant business.
In addition to his grandson Thomas, Mr. Troisgros is survived by his children, his six other grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
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