The stories of great chefs: Eugénie Brazier

Born poor, motherless at a young age, illiterate and moreover a woman. Yet, despite everything, the talent of Eugenie Brazier he managed to express himself fully, consecrating her as the first woman in history to receive three Michelin starsthe only one able to seduce them in two different restaurants. Eugenie Brazier she was undoubtedly the greatest cook of all time and her student Paul Bocuse did not hesitate to call it a pillar of world gastronomy. Last year, in the midst of a pandemic, the restaurant she founded and which bears her name in Lyon, Mother Brazier, passed the milestone of the century of life. Although it has changed owners several times, it remains a valuable point of reference for those who want to learn more about the cuisine of Eugenie Brazier and appreciate the legacy he left behind.

Brazier was born in 1895 a La Trancliere near Bourg-en-Bresse, today in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. She grew up in the countryside among the cattle and since she was a child she helped in the family by taking care of the pigs. Her mother, from whom she receives her first entry into the kitchen, dies at age 10 and the girl begins to work even harder to support herself and her family. Too poor to study, she never obtained a diploma and remained illiterate all her life. Driven out by her father at the age of 19, after having had a son out of wedlock, Gaston, she was taken on by a family of pasta makers, the Milliat. So land a Lyons. In the service of the family, she learned the first rudiments of the art of cooking simply by cooking, as she would tell years later to those who asked her how her talent had manifested itself. In his dishes, hitherto poor in the proper sense of the term, he introduced precious raw materials such as cream, mushrooms and truffles thanks to the economic possibilities of the Milliat.


The turning point comes when he lands in the kitchen of Mother Fillioux, owner of a famous restaurant in Lyon. The phenomenon of The mothers seen in those years good good young ladies become super fine cooks: the memory of their bistros is still vivid and the Brazier represents this season’s shining example on behalf of women in professional kitchens. After a short experience also at Dragon BreweryEugénie opens her first restaurant: Mother Brazier. It’s a grocery store adapted to good, even in the face of economic sacrifices, but the menu is no joke: lobster with mayonnaise, roast pigeons, brioche stuffed with flambéed apples. And all for a few francs. A heroic kitchen, without a refrigerator to store food. The restaurant of royal street it turns out to be a success to which customers contribute largely by word of mouth. We even talk about her in Paris. He then decides to entrust the mother to his son Gaston. Eugénie, however, cannot remain inactive and so here she is in the process of taking over a cabin without water, electricity or gas in the countryside, not far from Lyon. And from a simple shed for a good snack, the Col de la Luère restaurant is transformed into a restaurant, the second of the Brasero. To ask to come to work with her comes a guy on a bike, a certain Paul Bocuse. The future father of new French cuisine will be tempered by this life experience made up of waking up at dawn and working until late at night, the obsession with cleanliness and the many commitments to face.


For six years, from 1933 to 1939, Brazier mark twice: twice three Michelin stars in places popular with the jet set. Rita Hayworth, Jacques Prévert, Marlène Dietrich, Charles de Gaulle are among his clients. The famous Curnonsky food critic the crown of best cook in the world: It is Mother Brazier. During the war, he has his fine things to pare for the continual violations of rationing, in the name of a kitchen that it’s not over with junk food. His first menu at 5 francs costs ten times more. An exorbitant price for these years. Brazier’s cuisine in the name of simplicity, seasonality and territory, a Bocuse brand which will treasure the lesson of this simple and other mothers from Lyon. For the great leader, the most important lesson is sense of economy and inflexibility on the value of products. Despite numerous proposals from personalities of the caliber of the director of the Waldorf Astoria in New York and Ali Kahn, the Mother remained in Lyon. In 1974, her beloved son Gaston suffered a heart attack and Eugénie survived him only three years: he died of cancer at the age of 81.


Among the dishes which consecrated Brazier the Macaroni Gratinthe bressan pancakethe rabbit civetI artichoke hearts with foie gras and the half devil chick. In his cooking, he often uses game to combine with foie gras and truffle. While his most famous fish dishes were theBelle Dawn Lobster and the crayfish gratin. The book The secrets of Mother Brazierwith the best of his recipes will not come out until after his death.

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