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French chef Senderens, visionary and rebel, dies at age 77

Associated Press logo Associated Press 28/06/2017 By ELAINE GANLEY, Associated Press
FILE - In this May 20, 2005 file photo, top French chef Alain Senderens is photographed in the kitchen of his Parisian restaurant Lucas Carton. Senderens, an acclaimed chef who was a force in the development of nouvelle cuisine, a visionary and a rebel who rejected the elite star system, even trying to give up awards, has died. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this May 20, 2005 file photo, top French chef Alain Senderens is photographed in the kitchen of his Parisian restaurant Lucas Carton. Senderens, an acclaimed chef who was a force in the development of nouvelle cuisine, a visionary and a rebel who rejected the elite star system, even trying to give up awards, has died. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)

PARIS — French chef Alain Senderens, who rejected his Michelin stars and was acclaimed as a visionary, rebel and a force in the development of nouvelle cuisine, has died. He was 77.

Senderens was being cremated Wednesday in the central Correze region after his death Sunday, according to the town hall of his village of Saint-Setiers.

Senderens was regarded by his peers as a visionary and a cerebral chef who helped open the way to new approaches to gastronomy.

He was among the chefs who pushed forward the lighter nouvelle cuisine that captures the flavors of regional products. And he pared down in other areas, too, including prices.

In 2005, he transformed the Parisian temple of gastronomy Lucas Carton, which he took over in 1985, into a lower-priced establishment. That was after he tried to give back his years of three star-ratings, only to win two stars the following year.

"I wanted to make another style of restaurant," Senderens told The Associated Press in 2006, after winning the two stars. "I didn't want the stars anymore, but I can't do anything. Michelin says they give stars to whomever they want."

Senderens was fed up with the rigors of the star system and the competition in the kitchen, and the inaccessible prices for his creations. Senderens said in 2005 that after 27 years of being listed in the guide, he wanted to make a break, and make dining more affordable by cutting costs. When he reopened under a new name — Senderens — prices fell to the $80 range, without wine — about a quarter of the average price at the time of Michelin establishments.

He told the newsmagazine L'Express in 2012 that he was "ashamed ... by this excess of luxury."

Asian-inspired dishes that he was known for continued, such as pigeon with crab and vermicelli, and Javanese lamb curry with citronella and mango.

His signature dish through the decades was Canard Apicius, a duck dish based on a recipe from Roman times.

Wine propelled Senderens' creative talents. Among chefs emphasizing the need for harmony between a wine and the food on the plate, he took it a step further, creating dishes around particular wines.

Senderens sold his restaurant in 2013 and it reverted to the name of Lucas Carton.

Born Dec. 2, 1939, in Hyeres, on the Cote d'Azur, Senderens went to Paris in 1962, working in top restaurants, including Lucas Carton — which he took over three decades later — honing his skills in various roles in the kitchen brigade.

Top chefs voiced high praise for the loss of a trend-setter in the kitchen.

Celebrated French chef Paul Bocuse, now 91, paid hommage to Senderens in a Facebook post as a "giant of a chef with infinite talent." The Paul Bocuse restaurant outside Lyon, in southeastern France, noted that "Monsieur Bocuse" had presented Senderens with the insignia of Officer of the Legion of Honor several years ago.

"A great chef indeed," said Thomas Keller, one of America's top chefs, best known for his Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry.

Alain Passard recalled his mentor as a man of "remarkable sensibility."

"We knew we had before us something other than a cook," Passard was quoted as saying in the daily Le Figaro. "He wanted us to enter a world where no one else had been."

Passard worked under Senderens from 1977 to 1979, at L'Archestrate, on Paris' Left Bank, where Senderens began his climb to acclaim. When Senderens moved to Lucas Carton in the Place de la Madeleine, Passard took over the old haunt, renamed it Arpege and began winning his own Michelin stars.

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