Eugénie Brazier

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Eugénie Brazier
Eugénie Brazier chef.png
"la mère Brazier"
Born(1895-06-12)June 12, 1895
DiedMarch 2, 1977(1977-03-02) (aged 81)
ChildrenGaston Brazier (son) (1914–1974)
Culinary career
Cooking styleLyonnaise cuisine

Eugénie Brazier (12 June 1895 – 2 March 1977), known as "la mère Brazier", was a French chef who, in 1933, became the first person to attain a total of six Michelin stars, three each at two restaurants: La Mère Brazier on Rue Royale, one of the main streets of Lyon, and a second, also called La Mère Brazier, in the Alpine foothills at Col de la Luère.[1] This was unmatched until Alain Ducasse was awarded six stars with the publication of the 1998 Michelin Guide.[2] She was also the first woman to earn three Michelin stars.

Born in La Tranclière in the département of Ain near Lyon,[3] she opened her first restaurant, La Mère Brazier, in 1921, obtaining help from the food critic Curnonsky.[citation needed] Brazier developed Lyonnaise cuisine,[4] a tradition with which Paul Bocuse later found a worldwide success.[5]

Early life[edit]

Brazier was born on 12 June 1895 in Bourg-en-Bresse.[6][7] Her parents owned a farm near Certines.[8] By the time she was five she had learned to make two pies which were specialities of her mother.[6] She attended school only in winter[8] due to her farm duties.[6] When she was 10 her mother died, and she was placed with a family to help working their farm; in addition to her room and board she received a pair of clogs and a new dress each year.[8] She remained working on various farms until she was twenty.[8] She enjoyed cooking from an early age.[8]

In 1914, at the age of 19, she became a single mother;[9][7] some sources mention her father throwing her out at this time.[7] She then entered domestic service in Lyon for a family named Milliat, working first as a maid and nanny and then as a cook.[1][8][10]


Tombstone in the Cemetery of Mas Rillier (Miribel, Ain)

In order to increase her income[10] she started working for Mère Filloux, another of the Mères Lyonnaises, one whose kitchen employed only women.[1] During her time at La Mère Fillioux she learned to make volaille demi-deuil, also called poularde de Bresse demi-deuil (chicken in half-mourning), her version of which would make her famous.[1][10] The dish consisted of a Bresse chicken with slices of black truffle inserted under its skin that was then poached in bouillon.[10] When it was cooked, the truffle showed through the white skin of the chicken so that the overall appearance was black-and white; hence the name half-mourning. She also learned how to cook various types of game such as larks, ortolans, and partridges.[8]

Brazier found Filloux difficult to work for.[8][6] During August La Mère Fillioux would close down, and Brazier would go back to work for another restaurant, the Brasserie du Dragon.[8]

In 1921, when she was 26, she opened her first restaurant, at 12 Rue Royale.[1][11][7] She was hired to prepare a cold buffet for participants in Spido, an annual horse race, and the race's director was so pleasantly surprised by her cooking that he asked her to come to Pairs to prepare the event's banquet every year.[6] This established her reputation.[6]

She was famously picky about ingredients; her chicken vendor once joked that soon he would be expected to give the birds manicures before she would accept them.[11] She was equally demanding about cleanliness, emptying storage areas daily for cleaning.[11] She avoided waste, creating staff dinners from trimmings and saving anything left on diners' plates to feed the pigs.[11] Her menu changed as required by seasonal availability.[8] When there were few vegetables, she served a macaroni gratin.[8]

She expanded her premises on Rue Royale twice[6] and finally opened the second restaurant in 1932,[6] west of Lyon in Le Col de la Luere, in a former hunting camp.[1][10] The building had no water, gas, or electricity when she purchased it.[8] Michelin awarded the new restaurant two stars that year.[6]

In 1933, both restaurants were awarded three Michelin stars, the first time any chef had held six stars.[11][7] The record was only matched 64 years later in 1997, by chef Alain Ducasse.[7]

During the Second World War she was fined and imprisoned for breaking rationing laws.[8]

Paul Bocuse apprenticed with her there starting in 1946[12] when he was 20, becoming commis.[1][10] web|url=énie Brazier Is an Unsung Hero of French Cuisine|last=Reid|first=Deborah|date=2016-08-12|website=Eater|language=en|access-date=2020-02-16}}</ref>[13] Bernard Pacaud apprenticed with her starting in 1962, crediting her with inspiring him to become a cuisinier.[14]

Michelin removed one of the Le Col de la Luere restaurant's stars in 1968.[1] Four years later, Brazier retired.[1] It was 50 years before Michelin awarded a third star to another woman.[10]

As of 2001 the Rue Royale restaurant was being run by Brazier's granddaughter.[6] As of 2020 the Lyon restaurant was in operation under the ownership of Mattieu Viannay, who bought it in 2008.[15] The restaurant in Luere no longer exists.[6]

Menus and dishes[edit]

The menus at the La Mère Brazier restaurants were identical and changed little throughout her career.[12] The menu that Bocuse called her "classic standby" and "the one on which her reputation rested" was quenelles de brochet (pike dumplings), poularde demi-deuil, and fonds d’artichauts au foie gras (artichoke hearts with foie gras), typically accompanied by a young Beaujolais. The chicken in half-mourning was the dish for which she was famous. The British food writer Elizabeth David called out the artichoke dish as "one of the most delicious salads I have ever eaten".[1]


Brazier's cookbook, Les secrets de la mère Brazier, was published posthumously in 1977.[10] In 2014 it was translated into English under the title La Mere Brazier: The Mother of Modern French Cooking.[10] Bocuse and Pacaud each wrote forewords.[10][12][14]


Street named after Brazier (Lyon)

Brazier founded the current line of top chefs in Lyon, which included her student Paul Bocuse.

After her death her accomplishments were largely forgotten; when Alain Ducasse received a sixth Michelin star in 1998, the New York Times' food and wine writer, Florence Fabricant, and several other newspapers announced it as the first time it any chef had received six stars.[16] The paper later issued a correction.[17] In 2016 Eater wrote a feature on her, subheadlined, "How history erased this influential chef," which noted that Quentin Crewe's 1978 book, Great Chefs of France, barely mentions her and doesn't mention her at all in the section on Bocuse, and that the 2007 Food: The History of Taste, a collection of essays by French, German, Belgian, American, and British food historians,[18] discusses all of Brazier's important contemporaries but doesn't mention her.[10]

She was recognised by a Google Doodle on 12 June 2018, the 123rd anniversary of her birth.

In her 2019 documentary, The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution, Maya Gallus "(wrote her) back into history."[19] In his foreword to her posthumously-published cookbook, Bocuse called her "one of the pillars of global gastronomy".[12]

For Curnonsky, she was the greatest cuisinier in the world.[11] Drew Smith wrote "It is not going too far to say that her cuisine was the start of modern French gastronomy".[11]

Brazier's cooking was renowned, attracting clientele including Charles de Gaulle, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, and Marlene Dietrich, who loved her Langouste Belle Aurore, a whole sweet lobster drenched in brandy and cream.[20] Her New York Times obituary said she was a friend of Prime Minister Édouard Herriot.[21]

Eugénie Brazier prizes[edit]

Several annual prizes are awarded in her honor.[22] The "Grand Prix Eugénie Brazier" recognises a cookbook written by a woman, or about women's cooking.[22] The "Prix du Roman et Essai Gourmand" recognises essays or novels.[23] Another prize celebrates illustrators or photographers.[24] One focuses on la Francophonie.[25] In 2012, the members of the jury were Paul Bocuse, Marc Lambron (writer and president of the jury), Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch (chef at l'Élysée from 1988 to 1990), Jacotte Brazier, Reine Sammut (head chef at Auberge La Fenière, in Lourmarin), Françoise Monnet (Le Progrès de Lyon) and Valérie Bouvart (of the magazine Régal).[26]

Personal life[edit]

Eugénie Brazier died in March 1977[21][19] in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon. She had one son, Gaston.[10] She was never married but had a partner who worked as a chauffeur during her time in Lyon.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bernstein, Leilah (1998-03-18). "She Was the First Six-Star Chef". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  2. ^ Fabricant, Florence (1998-03-04). "A First for Michelin Guide: One Chef Wins Six Stars". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
  3. ^ "Who was Eugenie Brazier?". The Week. Archived from the original on 2018-06-16. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  4. ^ "Histoire de la gastronomie 2/4". Radio France. Archived from the original on 5 June 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  5. ^ Gaudry, François-Régis. "Paul Bocuse: derniers secrets du "pape" de la gastronomie française". Groupe Express-Roularta. Archived from the original on 8 August 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Blanc, Georges; Jobard, Coco (2001). Simple French cooking : recipes from our mothers' kitchens. London: Cassell & Co. pp. 11–14. ISBN 0-304-35997-1. OCLC 48389423.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Douet, Eleanor (12 June 2016). "Eugénie Brazier, la première femme aux trois étoiles au guide Michelin". (in French). Retrieved 2020-03-05.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Brazier, Eugénie (1977). La mère Brazier : the mother of modern French cooking. New York. pp. 15–35. ISBN 978-0-8478-4096-0. OCLC 832278437.
  9. ^ Waring, Olivia (2018-06-12). "Who was Eugénie Brazier as French chef gets Google Doodle?". Metro. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Reid, Deborah (2016-08-12). "Eugénie Brazier Is an Unsung Hero of French Cuisine". Eater. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Smith, Drew (1977). Translator's note to La mère Brazier : the mother of modern French cooking. New York. pp. 9–11. ISBN 978-0-8478-4096-0. OCLC 832278437.
  12. ^ a b c d Bocuse, Paul (1977). Foreword to La mère Brazier : the mother of modern French cooking. New York. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-0-8478-4096-0. OCLC 832278437.
  13. ^ McBride, Anne E. (20 July 2018). "The Complicated Legacy of Paul Bocuse | James Beard Foundation". Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  14. ^ a b Pacaud, Bernard (1977). Foreword to La mère Brazier : the mother of modern French cooking. New York. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-8478-4096-0. OCLC 832278437.
  15. ^ "La mere brazier". La mère Brazier Restaurant. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  16. ^ Cohen, Amanda (11 November 2013). "Talented Female Chefs Are Invisible to the Media". Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  17. ^ Fabricant, Florence (1998-03-04). "A First for Michelin Guide: One Chef Wins Six Stars". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  18. ^ Freedman, Paul; Freedman, Professor Paul (2007). Food: The History of Taste (California Studies in Food and Culture). ISBN 978-0520254763.
  19. ^ a b "Must See Documentary Features Chefs You Should Know Leading "Kitchen Culture" Revolution [Trailer]". Women You Should Know®. 2019-02-19. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  20. ^ Baker, Katie (26 March 2014). "The Queen of the French Kitchen". Archived from the original on 5 January 2015. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  21. ^ a b "Eugenie Brazier Dies in France; Chef Put Emphasis on Simplicity". New York Times. 4 March 1977. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  22. ^ a b "Grand Prix Eugénie Brazier". Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  23. ^ "Prix Eugénie Brazier - Prix du Roman et Essai Gourmand". Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  24. ^ "Prix Eugénie Brazier - Prix de l'Iconographie". Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  25. ^ "Prix Eugénie Brazier - Prix Francophonie". Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  26. ^ Jean-François Mesplède, Les Recettes des Grands-Mères remportent le Grand prix Eugénie Brazier Archived 2019-07-01 at the Wayback Machine L'Hotellerie Restauration, 20 November 2012

Further reading[edit]

  • Bouchet, Bernard. (2018). Les reines Mères de Lyon : la Mère Fillioux, la Belle Epoque, la Mère Bizolon, les Années Folles, la Mère Brazier, les Trentes Glorieuses. ISBN 9791097527051
  • Meldolesi, Allesandra. (2008). Eugenie Brazier e le altre. Storie e ricette delle madri dell'alta cucina. ISBN 88-6087-017-8
  • Mesplède, Jean-François. (2011). Eugénie Brazier: Un héritage gourmand. ISBN 978-2951570337

External links[edit]