’Pope’ of French cuisine Paul Bocuse dies age 91

In this file photo, French chef Paul Bocuse tastes a dish during the “Bocuse d’Or” (Golden Bocuse) trophy, at the 14th World Cuisine contest, in Lyon, central France on Jan. 29 2013. (AP)
Updated 20 January 2018
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’Pope’ of French cuisine Paul Bocuse dies age 91

PARIS: Paul Bocuse, one of the greatest French chefs of all time, has died aged 91, the country’s interior minister said on Saturday.
Dubbed the “pope” of French cuisine, Bocuse helped shake up the food world in the 1970s with the Nouvelle Cuisine revolution and created the idea of the celebrity chef.
“Monsieur Paul was France. The pope of gourmets has left us,” tweeted Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, announcing the chef’s death after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
“He was one of the greatest figures of French gastronomy, the General Charles de Gaulle of cuisine,” said French food critic Francois Simon, comparing him to France’s wartime savior and dominant postwar leader.
A giant in a nation that prides itself as the beating heart of gastronomy, Bocuse was France’s only chef to keep the Michelin food bible’s coveted three-star rating through more than four decades.
The heart of his empire, L’Auberge de Collonges au Mont D’Or, his father’s village inn near Lyon in food-obsessed southeastern France, earned three stars in 1965, and never lost a single one.
“Monsieur Paul,” as he was known, was named “chef of the century” by Michelin’s rival guide, the Gault-Millau in 1989, and again by The Culinary Institute of America in 2011.”
Born in 1926 to a family of cooks since 1765, Bocuse began his apprenticeship at the age of 16 and came to epitomise a certain type of French epicurean — a lover of fine wine, food and women.
A great upholder of tradition as well as an innovator, several of his trademark dishes at the Auberge remained unchanged for decades, such as the bass in a pastry crust or the black truffle soup he created for French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing in 1975, who named him a commander in the Legion of Honour.
He slept in the same room where he was born, and managed to maintain a relationship with his wife Raymonde and at least two lovers.
“I love women and we live too long these days to spend one’s entire life with just one,” Bocuse told the Daily Telegraph in 2005.
Together with the Gault-Millau guide, Bocuse became a driving force behind the Nouvelle Cuisine, sweeping away the rich and heavy sauces of yesteryear in favor of super-fresh ingredients and sleek aesthetics.
Bocuse reportedly claimed the term was invented by Gault-Millau to describe food he helped prepare for the maiden flight of the Concorde airliner in 1969.
Slashing cooking times, paring down menus and paying new attention to health, Nouvelle Cuisine was a craze that fizzled out but left a lasting legacy.
“It was a real revolution,” said Simon. “They coined a concept that came at exactly the right moment — at a time when gastronomy was a bit dull and heavy, with thick sauces, not sexy at all.”
In 2007, more than 80 top chefs flew to France from around the world to celebrate his 81st birthday and his legacy.


No politics please for Baghdad bikers aiming to unite Iraq

Updated 21 January 2019
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No politics please for Baghdad bikers aiming to unite Iraq

  • The Iraq Bikers — who now number 380 — are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths
  • With his black bandana and goatee, the leader of the Baghdad pack, known as “Captain,” looks the epitome of the American biker-outlaw

BAGHDAD: Roaring along Baghdad’s highways, the “Iraq Bikers” are doing more than showing off their love of outsized motorcycles and black leather: they want their shared enthusiasm to help heal Iraq’s deep sectarian rifts.
Weaving in and out of traffic, only the lucky few ride Harley Davidsons — a rare and expensive brand in Iraq — while others make do with bikes pimped-up to look something like the “Easy Rider” dream machines.
“Our goal is to build a brotherhood,” said Bilal Al-Bayati, 42, a government employee who founded the club in 2012 with the aim of improving the image of biker gangs and to promote unity after years of sectarian conflict.
That is why the first rule of his bikers club is: you do not talk about politics.
“It is absolutely prohibited to talk politics among members,” Bayati told Reuters as he sat with fellow bikers in a shisha cafe, a regular hangout for members.
“Whenever politics is mentioned, the members are warned once or twice and then expelled. We no longer have the strength to endure these tragedies or to repeat them,” he said, referring to sectarian violence.
With his black bandana and goatee, the leader of the Baghdad pack, known as “Captain,” looks the epitome of the American biker-outlaw.
But while their style is unmistakably US-inspired — at least one of Bayati’s cohorts wears a helmet emblazoned with the stars and stripes — these bikers fly the Iraqi flag from the panniers of their machines.
The Iraq Bikers — who now number 380 — are men of all ages, social classes and various faiths. One of their most recent events was taking part in Army Day celebrations.
Some are in the military, the police and even the Popular Mobilization Forces, a grouping of mostly Shiite militias which have taken part in the fight to oust Islamic State from Iraq in the last three years.
“It is a miniature Iraq,” said member Ahmed Haidar, 36, who works with an international relief agency.
But riding a chopper through Baghdad is quite different from Route 101. The bikers have to slow down at the many military checkpoints set up around the city to deter suicide and car bomb attacks.
And very few can afford a top bike.
“We don’t have a Harley Davidson franchise here,” said Kadhim Naji, a mechanic who specializes in turning ordinary motorbikes into something special.
“So what we do is we alter the motorbike, so it looks similar ... and it is cheaper.”