Gaston Lenôtre (born May 28, 1920 in Normandy, France – d. January 8, 2009) was a French pastry chef known as a possible creator of the opera cake (gâteau opéra), the founder of "Lenôtre" a culinary empire; whose brand includes restaurants, catering services, retail concerns and cooking schools, and one of the three founders with Paul Bocuse and Roger Verge of Les Chefs de France at EPCOT in Orlando, Florida.
Lenôtre was born on a small farm in Normandy. Both of his parents eventually moved the family to Paris and became restaurant workers. Eventually his father's ill health forced them to move back to the province from which they came. Lenôtre then had to struggle to find a position in a kitchen in Normandy. Prior to the outbreak of World War II he sold his homemade chocolate creations in Paris from a bicycle.
Following the war, Lenôtre opened a small bakery in Normandy. The venture was a success and in 1957 he came upon the opportunity to purchase a tiny bakery in the 16th Arrondissement of Paris. His new establishment did extremely well from the outset and is said to have presaged nouvelle cuisine. Lenôtre was renowned for concentrating on simple preparations and fresh ingredients, and for insisting on using the best butter in his pastries.
The year 1964 saw Lenôtre enter the catering field. Due in large part to improvements in freezing food perishables, he was able to quickly expand the numbers of diners he was able to serve.
The year 1971 saw Lenôtre open his first cooking school in Plaisir, Yvelines France. Among the chefs who studied under Lenôtre there was David Bouley and Jean-Paul Jeunet. The chef Pierre Hermé was an apprentice of his, as was the pastry chef Sébastien Canonne. The chef Alain Ducasse also worked under him.
In 1974 Lenôtre dispatched another then apprentice of his Michel Richard to open Chateau France a restaurant and patisserie on the East Side of Manhattan in New York City to spotlight the Lenôtre culinary style. It only stayed in business for a single year.
In 1985 the businesses under the banner head Lenôtre were taken over by the French Hotel firm Accor.
Gaston Lenôtre died on January 8, 2009 at the age of 88.
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- Shelton, Renee. "Opera Cake - Pastry Sampler's Pastry and Bakery News". Pastrysampler.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2018-01-31.
- "Dessert Professional’s Top Ten Pastry Chefs in North America 2015," Dessert Professional, August 24, 2015.
- Roger Vergé in the Orlando Sentinel
- Katzjan, Basil (2009-01-09). "Gaston Lenôtre, Who Built a Culinary Brand, Is Dead at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-01-31.