Following in the footsteps of a grand seigneur

Four kilometres north of Lyon on the banks of the Saône, not far from the bridge that gives it its name, you will find L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges restaurant – also known as Paul Bocuse, which gives something of an idea about who you will find there. For over 20 years, chef Christophe Muller has been at the L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, owned by its grand seigneur Paul Bocuse and which has consistently been awarded three Michelin stars since 1965 – a feat no other restaurant has ever achieved. No wonder, then, that over the decades the L’Auberge has become a place of pilgrimage for gourmets the world over.

This French “pilgrimage site for all things gourmet” is painted in striking reds, greens and yellows, with a painted window on the outside of the restaurant professing its legacy to customers. And atop the roof sits a large neon sign that reads “Paul Bocuse”.

It may be the culinary luminary that imposes his presence on the outside, but it is another talent running the pass inside. Should an aspiring young chef wish to stand over the stove with their long hair tied back and wearing a colourful chef’s jacket, Muller, cooking as ever in his elegant smoking shoes, is happy to oblige them. Professional, confident and authoritative, the Michelin-starred chef is the very embodiment of continuity – a true old school chef.

And that is something his guests cannot help but recognise, too, Muller, as was the tradition of his mentor Paul Bocuse, presenting them with the Soupe aux Truffes V.G.E. This classic dish was named after former President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who named Bocuse a Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1975. With its unmistakeable puff pastry cover and the sumptuous black truffles inside, it is regarded as the ultimate luxury by gourmet aficionados.

The menus of this acclaimed restaurant bear a quotation from Vincent van Gogh – one that Bocuse’s ambitious team also hold in their hearts: “Comme il est difficile d’être simple.” This “complexity of simplicity” is something that guests can experience in dishes such as pan-fried foie gras served with grapefruit, polenta and peas – such a simple-sounding dish meaning that every element must be implemented with precision. Something that Muller ensures down to the very last detail.

In 2000, the Executive Chef was named winner of the historic Meilleur Ouvrier de France award: a title given to outstanding figures in various artisan fields. The chef proudly wears this badge of honour on the collar of his chef’s jacket, its colours of the French tricolore representing his prestigious award.

Those who wish to experience the taste of French flair for themselves will have their chance in January 2017, when Christophe Muller takes up the mantle in Restaurant Ikarus in Hangar-7.

TV tip: Christophe Muller will be appearing in “Culinary Heights at Ikarus” on ServusTV in Austria at 9:15 p.m. on 19 January 2017.