Industry figures have paid tribute to Paul Haeberlin, the iconic chef-patron of the three-Michelin-starred Auberge de l’Ill restaurant in France, who died last weekend aged 84.
Haeberlin’s innovative approach to classical French cuisine saw him become one of the most influential chefs of his time. He transformed his family’s modest restaurant on the Ill River in Illhaeusern, Alsace, into a culinary force that gained critical acclaim way beyond the French borders. He rose to fame through his innovative takes on French classics, including his hallmark mousseline de grenouilles, or frogs’ legs mousse.
Auberge de l’Ill received its first Michelin star in 1952, with a second star following five years later. It was awarded the top accolade of three stars in 1967 and has held on to this award ever since. The restaurant served as both a culinary destination for food lovers as well as a training ground for chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten and the 2007 Roux Scholar Armand Sablon.
Michel Roux, chef-patron of the three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, said Haeberlin was a culinary icon on par with Paul Bocuse, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, and Roger Verge.
“These chefs are the temple and pillar of not only the renaissance of French cooking but the seriousness and beauty of it,” he said. “In all sincerity there was no bravado about the way they cooked. They cooked because they loved it.”
On a more personal note, Roux added that Paul Haeberlin “had a smile like an angel”. “He had great kindness, great generosity and great skill in cooking. He lived for food, friends and family – they were very important to him,” he said.
“It’s definitely a page turn, it’s a sad page turn, but I’m so lucky to have been able to have discovered the man, to have admired him, and to have adhered to his principles,” Roux added.
Sablon, who completed a three-month stage at Auberge de l’Ill as part of the 2007 Roux Scholarship last winter, said Haeberlin’s legacy is “massive”.
“Paul was very ill when I worked at Auberge de l’Ill but he came into the kitchen everyday to greet the staff. Even though his son Marc was heading the kitchen, everyone still called him chef,” he said.
“The fact that Auberge de l’Ill has retained its three stars for more than four decades is an amazing achievement. The restaurant is an institution and I feel so honoured to have worked there and met the man who built it up.”
Paul Haeberlin had been suffering from kidney and heart disease among other ailments and died at his home in Illhaeusern on Saturday 10 May.
By Kerstin Kühn
E-mail your comments to Kerstin Kühn here.