Q&A: Georges Perrier, The Bachelor

The newly divorced chef speaks about why his marriage ended and how soon he'll retire

Yesterday, I broke the bad news that Le Bec-Fin chef/owner Georges Perrier and his wife of five years were untying the knot. The chef didn’t return my calls, but this morning, I reached him at the place he always is: work.

Yesterday, I tried to reach you to discuss the fact that you and your wife had separated.
We’re not separated. We’re divorced. It’s final. We wanted to keep it really quiet. We didn’t want to make a big noise over it.

So you’re available?
Yes, but I’m not seeing anyone else right now. And I don’t think I would marry again. Not after twice. I am too old to get married. And I am not really looking. For the time being, I am not going to go to a woman. I want a woman to come to me.

Are you and your ex-wife on speaking terms?
Yes, it’s amicable. We’re still very good friends. I had a super-beautiful, smart and nice wife. I don’t blame her. Who could take this nightmare of the restaurant business?

Was that her main complaint—that you were choosing the restaurant over her?
Your job always comes first in this business. It’s seven o’clock to twelve o’clock at night. Seven o’clock to twelve o’clock at night. Seven o’clock to twelve o’clock at night. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Many people think I do nothing. That I just have these restaurants. But I am always here. You cannot be married to a woman when you’re a chef like me.

Couldn’t you just scale your hours back a bit?
It’s a business. You have to be there every day. Maybe I’m just not made to be married. It takes everything, every day out of you. I give it all to my customers, my people, this city, everything, so after my day at work, you have not much left. Nothing is left in the tank. The restaurant always wins, because the mistress always wins, not the wife. At seven o’clock I go in and make the sauces. Do you think Steve Starr does that? Do you think he shows up at his restaurants at seven o’clock to make the sauces? I think he got people doing that for him. Not me.

You’re getting older. How long do you think you will be able to keep that up?
I don’t know. It’s been my life. But maybe there is something better. I just finally realized that. I need to find something better. I’m rethinking my life. Rethinking everything. Trying to feel good about myself. The divorce has really opened my eyes.

So, what are you going to do?
Who knows? Consulting. I can write a book. There aren’t too many people who know food the way I know food. And I have given so much. I have given enough. I think it is time for me to make a decision. I’m tired. I put this city on top of the map for the restaurant industry. W.C. Fields said Philadelphia was the worst city on earth. I was around when he said that. Well, my accomplishments are a big part of the change of this city. But, I tell you the truth. I hope for my sake that I am retiring soon. I’ve been working since I was 14. Soon I am going to be 69. When I look at my life, all I’ve done is work. I want to smell the roses. I don’t want to be dying at the stove.