A founding father of France’s nouvelle cuisine, Alain Senderens, died Sunday at the age of 77, reports The Associated Press.
“He was one of the last great creators of Paris,” French food critic Gilles Pudlowski said, according to The Guardian. “This creator was a visionary.”
Senderens also earned the reputation of rebel, thanks in part to renouncing the much-coveted Michelin stars, so he could move untethered toward less fussy and inexpensive fare.
“I want to do something different that will be three-star in my heart,” he told The Guardian in 2005.
Popularized in the 1960s, nouvelle cuisine sought to transform French cooking from its butter and sauce-drenched tradition toward a lighter and brighter palate, emphasis on regional ingredients.
In that vein, Senderens opened L’Archestrate in Paris in 1968, where he gained notoriety for combining unorthodox ingredients like lobster and vanilla. He earned three Michelin stars there. But in 1985 he left to take over Paris’s famed Lucas Carton restaurant.
There, he also earned three stars. And he introduced menus with suggested pairings of wines by the glass alongside dishes, a notion that became a worldwide standard, reports The New York Times.
In 2005, he gave up Lucas Carton’s stars, telling The Guardian he had had it with the “senseless race” of restaurant ratings and the “indecent” prices tied to it.
At the revamped restaurant — renamed Senderens — he swapped expensive seafood for humbler fish. “We do things with sardines that will make you forget turbot, and at one-tenth the price,” he told The Times.
Senderens combined a casual ambiance with creations such as roast lamb with curry, mango and lemongrass. “I don’t want to compete any more,” Senderens told The Times. “I want to have some fun.”
Still, it seemed Senderens could not get away from Michelin; it awarded his restaurant two stars in 2006. “I didn’t want the stars anymore, but I can’t do anything,” Senderens told The AP. “Michelin says they give stars to whomever they want.”
“Un grand chef indeed,” top American chef Thomas Keller and proprietor of California restaurant The French Laundry, tweeted Monday.
Senderens died at his home in Saint-Setiers, a village in south-central France says The Times.