Georges Perrier Profile: Last Days of the French Chef

Critics say he needs to change. Customers say he needs to change. His staff says he needs to change. But change, as Georges Perrier will tell you, can be very, very hard

It is inconceivable that the arrogant, imperious Georges Perrier we knew, thought we knew, would have talked to himself this way — or even talked to himself at all — just a few years ago. But that Perrier is no more, and we are left with this one, the humble, pensive, befuddled soul on his heels in his buttery brown loafers. We’ve judged the old one stuffy and antiquated, ruled there’s no room for him anymore. Which may be true. It doesn’t make it any less tragic. Because when we take our legends, our elder statesmen, the people who built our city, and discard them in the name of the march to modernity, we somehow cheapen ourselves. We owe Georges Perrier something, whether we acknowledge it or not.

Sitting in Bar Lyonnais, sipping white wine with him, I ask him how, in total, he feels he’s been treated by the food critics, by Philadelphia. He shrugs a bit, mumbles something about being treated well. But then he says, “I think they have forgotten who I am and what I represent. The problem I see with the food critic is that they are always looking to see — ‘Who is gonna be the next Georges Perrier?’ That’s what the food critic wants.” He takes a slow, deliberate sip of his wine. “But there will never be the next Georges Perrier.”