The End of an Era: Georges Perrier Cedes Control of Le Bec-Fin

Less than one week after receiving a crushing two-bell review from Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan, legendary Le Bec-Fin founder Georges Perrier has signed a deal that will yield control of his 42-year old French restaurant to Nicolas Fanucci, a former Le Bec general manager and current GM at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa Valley.

This afternoon, in an exclusive interview with Foobooz, Perrier said that the deal had been in the works for the last seven months and was finalized just three days ago. “I don’t have it anymore, and I recognize that,” admits the 69-year year old chef, who introduced Philadelphia to fine dining when he opened Le Bec in 1970. “There is an age for everything, and in this business, you have to be 25, 35, or 40. I am almost 70 years old. I am due to take it easy.”

Perrier would not reveal the financial particulars, other than to say that he will retain some ownership interest in the company and stay on in an advisory role–at least for the time being. “I will still be involved,” promises Perrier. “I will do what I do best: talk to people. I am charming. And I will still make some stuff.” He’ll also continue to own the Walnut Street property.

Current Le Bec-Fin chef Nicholas Elmi will be replaced, although Perrier will not disclose the name of the new chef at this time. He says that Fanucci is bringing in someone from the Thomas Keller organization to lead the kitchen. When pressed, Perrier told me that it is “the chef from Per Se,” Keller’s exquisite expense-account restaurant that the New York Times recently declared the best in New York City. When I asked for clarification (could he possibly mean the chef from Per Se, i.e. Eli Kaimeh?), Perrier backed away. “I don’t want to upset Thomas Keller,” he said. “You will know the name soon enough.”

Last week, I’d called Perrier to ask him for his reaction to LaBan’s review and demotion of the restaurant to two bells on the four bell scale. At the time, he politely declined to comment. Today, though, he was more forthcoming. “Craig LaBan is a great food critic,” began Perrier. “But he didn’t go after the food. He went after me, and I will never forgive him. It’s unfair, and it’s rude. I have hundreds of people who work for me. I took care of them. I took care of their children. I took care of their school. And I don’t deserve the way that Craig LaBan put me in the trash can, in such a violent way.” Perrier also noted that the review in no way affected the arrangements with Fanucci or the timing of the deal.

Perrier expects that Le Bec-Fin will remain open through the first week of April, after which it will close for renovations.

“I am excited,” said Perrier. “I am giving the opportunity to Le Bec-Fin to be great again, and the people of Philadelphia deserve that.”

 

 

  • Harry W

    It is a sad day in the Philadelphia Culinary World. Chef Perrier along with Susanna Foo, Walter Staib, and people of Bookbinders put Philadelphia on the culinary map. It is so sad that people of Philadelphia love the McStarr restaurants you can find one one every corner in Philadelphia. Pure tradition excellent cuisine is not in vogue. Cute servers with the IQ of an fungi is what people want. Authenticity! What is that? If you do not posses authenticty in your character then how can one recognize it in the cosmos. Last time I checke Stepen Starr doesnot have a street named after him in Philadlphia, Atlantic City or New York City. Yet people find his establishments valid and relevent. True culinarians myself inclueded find his establishments mediocre and counterfeit representations of culture. New York realized after they commited the ultimate assault on culture like when the demolished the orgianl Penn Station or the Roxx Theatre that they made a grave mistake. One can say thay they wish they could turn back time. I often say you cannot hit “Rewind” on the VCR of life and start from the beggining. Just something to ponder.

  • Market Economy

    O, how I do lament for the “true culinarians”. For where now shall they set their sights for cuisine possessing such “authenticity in character”. Hold it, I hear Paris, France is nice this time of the year.

  • HarrySBallz

    Harry, Get your nose out of the whiskey bottle and into a Dictionary.

  • JLH

    The Le Bec Fin from its hayday will be missed. It was the epitome of fine dining; the crown jewel of the city. Unfortunately, those days are gone. The rise and fall of Le Bec Fin are attributable to the same person; George Perrier.
    George Perrier really can’t help himself when it comes to keeping his mouth shut. This transition at Le Bec was to take place quietly and without fanfare until such time in the near future (time of reno, etc).
    What he did was to instill a sense of futility and angst within the currently employed. There will be many casualties at Le Bec Fin. I expect Chef Nicholas Elmi to land on his feet in lieu of the recent Craig LaBan review that was directed more so at operations at Le Bec than at Elmi’s food.
    I thank the wait staff at Le Bec for their attention to detail under the most trying of circumstances.
    Again, it’s all about Goerge.

  • Matt

    It’s ridiculous to blame the downfall of LBF on the customers. This day had to come. Perrier is almost 70 years old. He can’t run the place anymore. If we’re lucky, the new management will restore LBF to its former glory. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  • Lanadon

    I will cherish the meals and memories that I have of Le Bec Fin. I am not sad to see the change and am excited to here of the caliber of talent coming in. A dramatic change was needed to restore this classic back to greatness.

    I also look forward to more great things from chef Nicholas he is super talented. He deserves a new oppertinity that will support the passion and excellence he is capable of.

  • ChickenWang

    Hopefully this doesn’t mean Georges is going to WANK US into eating there again.

    Nicolas Fanucci could definitely spark a new string of interest true four bell restaurants…

  • Tex

    Well, I guess that’s etched in stone. Is this happening before or after Le Bec Fin closes?

  • Meh-

    I remember rushing there a few years ago to get a last meal in because of a similar story. This smells like another nice head fake by Georges.

  • Nayla Debbas

    Perrier is a liar!!!!!My husband use to work with him,he fired him and didn’t ask about his family nor his children!!!!!He deserves this!!!Un point c’est tout!!!!

  • http://kiefferscooks.com/ ChefBK

    A few words about Le Bec Fin

    I am sure everyone in Philadelphia will have something to say about the sale of the Bec Fin this week. And maybe it IS another publicity stunt…but I don’t think so. I personally want to express myself here because Le Bec was a special place for me and for many Philadelphia food lovers. It was where I celebrated occasions: engagement, first baby, anniversaries. We celebrated there because we did not go to this kind of restaurant every weekend. Because the service was impeccable. Because the food was richly sublime. BECAUSE it had white starched tablecloths and a cheese cart. Because George Perrier was the hot tempered task-master that kept the front and back of the house up to sky-high standards.
    I was proud that Philadelphia had a 5 star restaurant and out-of-town guests that appreciated fine food were dragged there to see the shining example of what the much maligned Philly food scene had to offer in the early days of its foodie haven incarnation. Then I appreciated it with my mouth and a kind of snobbery. Now that I am in the industry, I look back and appreciate the very, very hard work it took to keep a restaurant like this running at the 5 star level for so many years. Ok, so Mr. Perrier might be a hellion to work for…might be demanding…chauvinistic…egotistical. But, you know what? He was a (deserved) god in the Philadelphia food scene. He was there at the beginning. When Philly had Bookbinders and Frankly Bradley’s as the only decent places to eat. He brought food fame to Philadelphia. He brought classic French food to people who’s idea of a great meal did not go beyond steak and lobster. AND HE MADE THEM LIKE IT!!!!
    I am most sad that George Perrier went out on a demeaning review. I am sad that George Perrier did not quit while he was ahead. Am sad that Craig Leban wasn’t kinder. I am sad that the food business is and probably always will be, a young person’s game, no matter what your pedigree. A what- did- you- do- for- me today business. A business that does not tolerate the diminished energy of a 70 year old who could not relinquish the reins to a younger person who might have had a better feel for the direction of fine dining in 2012.
    Is Craig Leban wrong? I am sad to say, not really. I dined at Le Bec Fin a couple of weeks ago…let’s just say it is not the restaurant I knew. Is the consumer wrong for eschewing white table cloth, dress-up restaurants and wanting food to match the pricing? Nope. There is so much dining competition that you have to be at the top of your game, nimble and most of all, a business person more importantly than a chef.
    So adieu, George Perrier and Le Bec Fin. We are all better for having known you.

  • Frank Jacoby

    …the eighties were a wonderfully memorable time as regards working and learning in the various kitchens along walnut & chestnut streets….many thanks and best wishes to George, the restaurant school, Soren & Trish (L’Aigle D’Or) and all my culinary mates…

  • supreme foodie

    For those who you who never worked in the industry you are clueless about what it takes to fun such a fine establishment. It’s takes lots of hard physically demanding work, long hours, great skill, excellent managerial skills, devotion, talent, inspiration and skill and passion from the heart and, yes, a military like atmosphere not to mention keeping up with changing times and economic downturns. This industry is not for the faint of heart or those who can’t work or won’t work like a dog for the cause. It’s a true team effort. It’s a huge endeavor to succeed and Perrier did big time. How many restaurants receive a five star rating and in a city like Philly?

    In it’s heyday he put Philly on the culinary map and that trend contributed to the great culinary scene we have today, which was not the case when Perrier started and when Le Bec Fin held a five star rating. How many trained in his kitchen, perfected their skills and moved on to open their on establishments? For that alone, Perrier should be thanked for training and inspiring others in the industry.

    Give credit where credit is due. Thank you, George Perrier, for all that you have done for the culinary world and this City. It is time for you to step back a bit and enjoy your life. You have earned it and I thank you for what you have done for the culinary scene and this City in particular.

  • http://www.twitter.com/cookinginvein Jitti Chaithiraphant

    Craig Laban is an absolute idiot.

    He probably need this kind of national attention to become a known writer. He should not write about food period. His experience vs 50 plus years Chef George Perrier ? Look at the title “what the Bec…?”. It was so inappropriate.

    This man put a 5 star restaurant in this town until next wave of great chefs came along. How many great chefs he trained or worked at Le Bec Fin? How many years this restaurant has consistently been one of the top 40 best restaurants in this country. How many French chefs cooking outside France crowned as grand master chefs?

    In Jan 2011, Chef Marc Vetri ate at Le Bec Fin and tweeted “Been to every hyped 3 star rest. in America, bottom line, if you want a real cooking lesson, go to Le Bec-Fin. I challenge anybody!”.

    In the mid of 2011, Le Bec Fin closed for renovation despite the rumor that it would be sold the year before. Chef Perrier was pondering retirement. Until this idiot writer with personal agenda (clearly) went in to eat (once) and probably his first time in life. If Michelin rating were in USA as early as 70′s. This restaurant would have been at least 2 michelin star rated or 3 easily.

    Who the Bec is Craig Laban? He will never be recognized as the same caliber writer as William Grimes or Frank Bruni. Just a small time writer needing this kind of attention to build his name so he can land better gig, better pay and more free meals.

    He is just another idiot writer who should be remembered as “shame on you” food writer hall of shame as these two pigs – John Mariani and Josh Ozersky.

  • AreYouSaying

    Interesting perspective Jitti. If this were true wouldn’t the Inquirer being going bankrupt and for sale every other year if Laban were such a bad writer? …. oops, never mind

  • supreme foodie

    Jitti makes some very valid points.

  • http://turing-payment-protection-insurance/ reclaim your money

    “turing-payment-protection-insurance/ Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time :-)

  • Theophilus Ghoststone

    What a sad day. I recommend Chef Perrier to keep moving and like Lot’s wife don’t look back or he will turn to a pillar of salt.
    First the Maisonette in Cincinnati and now this!
    I shudder to think what trendy new restaurant will take its place.
    I am sure it will be like going from Buckingham Palace to the Boom Boom Room.