Monday, March 12, 2012

Merci, Georges Perrier

M. Perrier has hung up his toque. The revered French chef, restaurant pioneer, author and influencer has officially left the kitchens of his many establishments, most notably Philadelphia's Le Bec-Fin, after a long career of food, feuds, and fiefdoms extraordinaires. Even the New York Times, somewhat out-of-town from their usual NYC dining reportage, marked the event as noteworthy.

The magnificent Le Bec-Fin, at its zenith

A visit to LBF was an almost indescribable experience, back in the day. Courses...too many to count...each one such a delight...all waiters in tuxedoes...wines with each course. And what happened was that the 80s became the 90s, and the 90s became the lackluster 2Ks... and along with the humorless decade, came a new era in dining aesceticism. Gone was the big expense account lunch and dinner that had been the backbone of the luxury meal economy. Out went quantity, traded in for the spare, three-course prix fixe focused on brevity and the time-is-money sensibility of the day's super-productive executive.

I recall a dinner there with a friend who was struggling with a life-threatening illness. We embraced each over-the-top plate as it appeared before us, each acutely aware that this meal would be the substitute for all the other meals we would not get to enjoy together. It was, indeed, a last supper of sorts, and no better place to have had it than LBF it its heyday. Out from the kitchen came le gastronome petit to accept the supplicating appreciation of the terribly discerning crowd of diners. An evening to remember.

M. Perrier had other establishments as well. His George's on the Main Line is one of our go-to spots, a bastion of lighter fare and a lighter life, a midday trip to Aix-en-Provence.

And his devotion to area philanthropy is also well-known. He was my Honorary Chair for Paoli Hospital's April in Paris Ball a few years back, and regaled me as my dinner partner with marvelous tales out of l'ecole from his years of cooking for everyone from Presidents to puppies. All in a Gallic accent as thick as a bechamel.

Another chef will take over, once the newly re-tooled LBF reopens. But it will never be quite the same.

Rouxing the day,

Photos courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Main Line Sportsman said...

Enjoyed several fine dining experiences there...the most notable and last on my 40th. It was inevitable...but lamentable nonetheless.

Anne Lake said...

So glad you're a townie so you know what I mean...XOXO

Guardian of Gimcracks said...

One of my fondest memories is dining at Le Bec Fin with my best girlfriend. Chef Perrier came out to the dining room to make his rounds and upon meeting me he kissed my hand. We thought a hand kiss was so old fashioned but in reflection it really complimented the entire dining experience. He will be missed!

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