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France - Hôtel du Lion Rouge

By Fernando Messias, Bailli of Greater Lisbon

In April 2012 my wife, Sofia, and I went on a mini tour of Europe taking in Paris London, Rome. We had dinner in several good restaurants including Les Elysées du Vernet and Le Meurice in Paris, the Ledbury in London and La Pergola in Rome.

Whilst in Paris we found an old menu with the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs logo in an antique shop! After a few moments looking at this menu we had the feeling of having discovered something very special. We were right: it was a menu from the first year (1950) of the foundation of modern-day Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. Imagine our excitement!

We bought the menu and to celebrate went to Le Meurice where we had a sublime lunch of lobster with a fine Champagne Laurent Perrier ‘Ultra Brut’.

On our return home, we sent a scan of our purchase to our Bailli Délégué, Aníbal Soares, who immediately confirmed that the menu was an important document in the history of the Confrérie.

The name that appeared on this precious document was that of René Rétoré, a leading Chef in France, recipient of a “Gold Medal of Gastronomy” in 1937, a Commandeur of the Order of the Confrérie des Tastevins, a graduate member of the Des Purs Cent Club, founder in 1951 of the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France and above all, proprietor of the famous Hôtel du Lion Rouge (with its Restaurant Tournebroche) at Soissons in Picardy - 100kms Northeast of Paris.

It seems that this Professional was the first Bailli of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, or one of the first in 1950 or 1951. In other words, this was in the same year of the foundation of the modern Chaîne, or in the year after. This discovery brought me to think a little more about the objectives, philosophy and history of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

In my view, going “back to the roots” should be the way forward. The Chaîne must cultivate and develop the culinary arts in the 21st century by which I mean that we should once again make every effort to attract leading Professionals, just like Réné Rétoré in his day, who are motivated and who will have pride in belonging to our Confrérie.

What motivated a professional chef to become the first Bailli of Champagne in 1950? A Chef who was:

-     awarded a Gold Medal of Gastronomy in late 1937
-     a Commandeur of the Order of the Confrérie des Tastevins
-     a graduate from the Des Purs Cent Club
-     founder of the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France in 1951
-     owner of one of the most historic hotel/restaurants at the beginning of the 20th century – the same place where, in the
      First World War, the Triple Entente dined … an establishment occupied several times, destroyed and rebuilt twice. 

In my opinion two reasons might explain this:

1)    The founder members of the Chaîne and their proactive position in society at the time
2)    The origins, the philosophy and the objectives of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

Réné Rétoré took pride in placing the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs above all the other associations and above all his professional distinctions in 1950! To me Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is simply the best and the unique really international gastronomic association of all times and as a good friend of mine used to say “… the show must go on…”!

Fernando Messias, Bailli of Greater Lisbon (Portugal)