Return to Transcripts main page

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown

Lyon, France

Aired January 18, 2015 - 20:00   ET



ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST (voice-over): This is the story of one man, one chef, and a city. Also it's about France and a lot of other chefs. And a culinary tradition that grew up to change the world of gastronomy. It's about a family tree, about the trunk from which many branches grew. It's about food, lots of food, great food. Some of the greatest food on earth.

What is it exactly about this place? Over the past century, the system here, the tradition, whatever it is that took hold here, churned out a tremendous number of the world's most important chefs. Chappell, Bocois and most importantly, influenced nearly all the rest of them.

(on camera): Why Lyon? Why is this such a gastronomic capital? Why all of these great chefs?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because Lyon is really positioned between the north and the south.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're locked in between Burgundy and Rome.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): Lyon is the second largest city in France, situated in the southeast of the country midway between the Alps in the east and the Mediterranean to the south.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was also a bottleneck when cars began the mode of transportation.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Goes right to the heart of the idea of driving the destination on the way to --


BOURDAIN (voice-over): Out of that system came chefs like this guy, Daniel Boulud. Like Prince or Madonna, he needs really only one name. In New York or anywhere in the chef world, Daniel. The name of his three star restaurant in Manhattan, one of many in an empire that stretches from London to Singapore. He came from here, a farm outside the city of Lyon, through the city's great kitchens into New York, then his flagship.

(on camera): So when did you start working with food? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 14 years old, 1969. I started as an apprentice in Lyon.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): He started as so many French cooks of his time did, at the very bottom. As a 14-year-old apprentice in the restaurant.

(on camera): What was your first job in the kitchen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They used to call me the beaver, because I was just washing every single day. They make you clean the vegetable, they make you carry all the boxes from the market.

BOURDAIN: At 14. You can't do that anymore, can you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think you can make him work 12 hours a day and pay him maybe a buck a month.

BOURDAIN: The good old days.

(voice-over): Why Lyon? Why here? Look at the fundamentals, the things that Lyonais think of as birth rights. The right to eat delicious cured pork in unimaginably delicious forms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The art of chocolatery, Lyonais can't live without it.

BOURDAIN: Pate, sausages, it's an art that's revered here and widely enjoyed. Few names garner more respect from aficionados of pig.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty ton just inside this room. They are going mad with the prediction.

BOURDAIN: In a relentlessly cold room, pork shoulder, belly and fat back are fed in batches through a vertical chopper. The sprinkling of seasoning and spices. Removed in large balls of finely, but not too finely chopped leek. You do not want to get your hand caught in one of these things. Then mixed to smooth perfection with a dough hook.


BOURDAIN: Spread out and layered for consistent seasoning, formed into shapes and smacked to remove air bubbles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure the meat gets really tight.

BOURDAIN: Into the sausage machine and piped into organic casings. Trust me, it isn't easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very light touch.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Let's see now. Come on. Let's see this. That's how you get pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all in the meat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just release at the end.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): It's a serious workplace but with production nearly done, this being France and all, it's time for a snack and some wine.

(on camera): Doing what I'm good at. Eating.

(voice-over): Another of Lyon's most famous sausages is made primarily from pig's head with pork belly, pork shoulder, brandy, nutmeg and allspice mixed in for flavor.

(on camera): Man, it's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to eat with my father.

BOURDAIN: Yes? He knows he does really good work. He knows how good his stuff is. Cheers. Nice -- it's a beautiful day in Lyon.


BOURDAIN (voice-over): In Lyon, a city that believes absolutely in the power of food, one name is everywhere. The name that brought honor, attention and millions of visitors to the city. Though there have been many chef heroes in the annals of gastronomy, in Lyon and even cross France, one name stands above all others. Murals, bridges, markets, casual brasserie, the name of Missour Paul is everywhere.

One of his most enduring institutions is this. One of the nation's great culinary schools. Now, just to give you an idea of the standards here, the kind of traditional dishes, baseline old school fundamentals you're expected to master before you move on at becoming a creative genius all your own, meet these guys. Matthew, Joseph and the institute's top dog, Alain. Chefs at MOS, all. Otherwise known as MOS.

(on camera): Otherwise pay your flight home, private.

(voice-over): Master chefs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every four years, they have this MOS competition.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): The master craftsmen of France.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's about 30 discipline of craftsmen where you can acquire the MOF.

BOURDAIN: See that red, white and blue around their necks? That means they made it through the brutally unreasonably rigorous competition that pits hundreds of top chefs against each other where only a handful survive.

Certified by the highest in the land as being at the very top of the top of their professions. MOF Challenges often include ultra old school classics not unlike the one we're making today. Poulair au visse, thick slice of black truffle are slipped under the skin of a chicken from breast, the Rolls Royce of chickens. It's then tied, slipped inside a pig's bladder and steamed until tender.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea is to concentrate the flavor of the truffle inside the bladder. The dish they choose, it's always in reference to a chef of the past and this was a dish they were doing.

BOURDAIN: At times brutal world of the kitchen looks much of the time like a boys' club but where did they come from? If we track back a bit to where it all began for Lyon and for many of the chefs whose names we now know and look up to, it all goes back to here. Lamer Brassie, the godmother, the original master. Teacher, chef, force.

Two restaurants with three Michelin stars. An achievement no one, male or female, had attained and for many years, Lyon's most famous chef. Her influence runs right through every kitchen that's come since and her graduates carry on her recipes and her traditions. This was one of hers, a signature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the next hour, you keep putting it like this. The most miserable thing is when the bladder explodes.

BOURDAIN (on camera): That's never a good thing when a bladder explodes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the chicken proves, the bladder is really tough to expand. You have to talk to your bladder.

BOURDAIN: I do all the time, believe me. Please hold up, please hold up. Not here, people are looking. Wait until you get in between cars.

(voice-over): A rather luxurious sauce of more, much more black truffle and generous amounts of foie gras and triple cream. Perfect. Nice milkshake. Slightly pink around the legs but cooked through, the flesh perfumed by the generous slices of truffle.

(on camera): Who gets to eat like this? We do.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see the perfect balance in the sauce. If I was a chicken, that's the way I would like to end up.

BOURDAIN: Even if I weren't a chicken, I would like to go like this. Die surrounded by truffles and foie gras and fine wine.



(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BOURDAIN (voice-over): The roaring of a powerful engine. The screech of rubber and off we go. Kings of the road in our Citroen, two horse power classic.

(on camera): No power steering?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're kidding.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): It's like a toy car. We're going back in time a bit, to the area where Daniel grew up, where life was very different from New York.

(on camera): Were you the misfit of the family, rebellious or --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was quite rebellious. My parents were talking to me about the idea of taking over the farm. As the oldest son, that would have been the logical thing.

BOURDAIN: Right. The farmer's life was not for you.


BOURDAIN (voice-over): He grew up in a true farm family. You milk the cows, tended the animals. Daniel claims he never even saw processed food until he was a teenager.

A brief respite by the side of the road and some passersby are apparently less appreciative of fine automobiles than we are. A short consultation with an automotive professional and we are back on the road, back in this case to school. This was Daniel's old elementary school in a nearby town.

I'm automatically taken back to memories of my own school days. The smell of caustic pine cleaner, chalkboards and fear. The cruel ministrations of tiny-eyed lunch ladies slopping can loads of prison chow into steam tables. Tuna noodle surprise that haunt my sense memories still.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pumpkin soup today with onion, nutmeg and chicken stock. Basic good pumpkin soup.

BOURDAIN: This is Marie, head chef, cook, host and server for 320 hungry and very discriminating French schoolchildren ages 3 to 12. On the menu, prefix today, pumpkin soup, homemade cous-cous and a sauce supreme.

(on camera): This is a very sophisticated meal for children. I was a little -- in school, frankly. Like a lot of other students, I want pizza, pizza, pizza, are the children here open to variety?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to make sure they always get a little challenge by how the food looks and the smell and also, the taste after. I think she has a very strict budget.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): In the USA, greatest country in the world, no doubt, we spend an average of $2.75 per student for public school lunch. Compare and contrast.


BOURDAIN (on camera): Did you eat this well when you were here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. Bon jour.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): The kids attack their food like hungry trenchermen, wiping out three servings in the time it takes me to eat one. I guess they like it.

(on camera): It's good. This is good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think my chef in New York would do better.

BOURDAIN: These kids eat fast. Look how fast this kid eats. Turn your head, he'll dish your food right out of your plate. Push up your tray just like in prison, move it along. Move it along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come to you and serve you. Most important thing that we see here is the love Mary give to the food she make and to the kids she serves. I think it has a lot to do with the reaction they have to food.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): Dessert is homemade fromage blanc, cheese with chocolate and orange segments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want to be when you grow up? Fireman. Generate machine gun.

BOURDAIN (on camera): He wants to make --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Generate machine gun, yes.

BOURDAIN: OK. Keep an eye on that one. All right.

(voice-over): For a dope fiend, feeding the monkey means finding and sticking with heroin. For one poor guy, it's this. French food, in particular, Lyonais food. The cautionary tale of Bill Beeford, literary Lyon with a perfectly good job as fiction editor at "New Yorker" magazine, at the undignified age of 53.

He pretty much pulled up stakes, put his whole past life on hold and defected to France to learn how to cook.

(on camera): What happened to you? You used to have a good job, you hung out a couple nights with battagli and next thing you know you're living in France and cooking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I discovered a whole world that the rest of the world didn't seem to know about, just a very compressed and tense lifelong learned expertise and knowledge of food. It's not the food network and it's not glossy magazines and it's not something you get from reading a recipe book. It's something you get by just going deep. I was afraid of France because I didn't find when I took on the subject of French food, I would have to go really deep. I went and thought we would have to stay for six months and we stayed for five years.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): We meet at a uniquely Lyonais institution, a casual laid-back kind of pub/bistro with a limited old school menu and always, always an unpretentious vibe. People come here to unwind, relax and eat with abandon. So you say outright recently in one of your published works that Lyon is better than Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lyon is beautiful, well-eating city and everybody here knows they have a really good life and they don't give a flying fig if anybody else knows about it. They don't actually want visitors.

BOURDAIN: If you were to pick one iconic dish to represent, it would have to be the canel broche. Not particularly fabulous river fish, pike, folded into a light dough until fluffy and airy, but still rich, adrift in a rich creamy, almost bisque-like sauce made with crayfish, creme fresh and brandy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of a nice mix of France and Italy. What a treat to eat together in Lyon.




BOURDAIN (voice-over): If you really want to understand a place, love it the way it deserves to be loved, maybe you have to live there. Bill Buford did just that and made Lyon his home. Today he's taking me somewhere only someone from the home team could be expected to know about.

BILL BUFORD: It's a beautiful day. The sky is blue, we're feeling the seasons changing and we're about to go into a dark room, and you eat a very Lyonais menu and drink a vast quantity of wine.

BOURDAIN (on camera): What sinister bodies will be in there?

BUFORD: Only kind of people who would do this kind of thing on a bright pretty day, it's a very male tradition. You work hard, you drink harder. Don't be afraid.

BOURDAIN: Don't be afraid.

(voice-over): The mysterious, fabulous, goofy, wonderful bro-fests are basically eating and drinking societies that go back over a century, when the silk workers of Lyon would finish their night shifts early in the morning. Hungry and looking to get, shall we say, completely hammered, they would take over, stuff their faces like heroes, blow off the proverbial steam in decidedly French fashion, which is to say no freaking guytallion nachos or mozzerella sticks for these guys.

BOURDAIN (on camera): All of them have special memberships?

BUFORD: There must be 50 of those that I know about. You are invited to be a member and remain a member the rest of your life.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): The food is invariably deliciously dinosauric and heavy always glorious classics, the slow, slowly stewed neck and shoulder pieces of veal with mushrooms served over rice, hunks of bread and wine, and lots of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It works, and for 50 years.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Do women have their own organizations?


BOURDAIN: There are. So somewhere on the other side of town, there are a lot of women sitting around drinking wine, eating and complaining about the men.

(voice-over): Then there will be, yes, singing. And no doubt the telling of lusty jokes followed by serious official business.

Alongside and some say above the names of the other culinary giants in and around Lyon is the name Trois Gros. It sparked a dynasty of culinary excellence that continues today with Pierre's son, Michel and his son, Cesar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dream always was to put it on my resume. Bon jour.

BOURDAIN: Many have called Maison Trois Gros the best restaurant in the world. In the '60s, the brothers, Pierre and Jao were early, important and fundamental innovators of what came to be known as nouvelle cuisine. Behold, one of their breakout classics. One of the truly game-changing, timeless, most influential dishes in history. It seems now maybe a simple thing, but it absolutely turned the world upside down when it debuted on the menu in 1962.

(on camera): When you have a dish this legendary, this iconic, there's no escaping it. The rolling stones will always have to play jumping jack flash. If you Google Foie Gras, you will see this thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forget everything you have been given.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): Before this, fish was generally overcooked. It was served alongside elaborate garnishes, starches, vegetables. This simple, elegant, almost Japanese ode to flavor changed the way we cook fish in restaurants today. And how we make sauces, what our plates look like.

(on camera): I remember seeing a picture of this as a young man. I'm getting goose bumps seeing this. Thrilling. Perfect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's beautiful. The moment you put the fish in the pan. It's very important.

BOURDAIN: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From now, to you in the dining room in one minute. One minute is the time. Perfect.

BOURDAIN: Because it's cooking all the way. Perfect. It's a perfect dish. It's really one of the great ideas of the 20th Century. Fashionable.





BOURDAIN (voice-over): When in Lyon, one can't help but a see line from there, from the rustic dishes of the farm to here, the classics of the great tables of Europe. All roads lead here. A major trunk of the tree that goes back to Karem and beyond. Monseur Paul Boguza. The brigade. The way it is done and has always been done since a military style hierarchy was instituted into the kitchen.

When the only acceptable response to any question or any command is Oui, Chef. This is the Special Forces, the S.A.S., of cooking. And these cooks live to avoid, under any circumstances, disappointing their comrades, the hierarchy or Monseur Paul. Daniel worked here and so have many, many who have gone on to run their own celebrated kitchens.

In the '70s as a young wanna-be cook, I managed to lay hands on a French copy of the classic cookbook, La Cuisine Du Marche and I struggled to translate the descriptions of dishes so fantastic I was quite sure I never, ever in my life would cook, much less eat.

(on camera): If you could please say how honored and grateful I am to be here. This is a dream come true. Over the years, how many great chefs have come through this restaurant and on to open great restaurants?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a child somewhere around the world because everybody goes around the world.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): But he is and was part of the system. He came up with his own cruel and terrifying masters and their faces are here. The towering and intimidating figure behind la pyramid. Owl out of his kitchens same such figures as Francois Biese, George Perrier and many more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was all the gang of the nouvelle cuisine. The '60s in New York.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Every great chef I have ever met has nightmares of they're still a young man, they're back in a kitchen and a chef is yelling at him. Who were his masters?


BOURDAIN: Really? (voice-over): La mer brassier at the ripe old age of 20, he worked as an apprentice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was such a screamer. You would fall on your butt, she was screaming so hard. She was the first up in the morning and the last one to go to bed. She would go to the market with three cook in the back of the truck and she would put the case of green beans or something and the cook will be sitting down making the beans, not to waste time.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Truly a terrifying figure.

(voice-over): Truffle soup Elyssee. I can't tell you how many hours I stared at photos of this dish, how pathetically I tried to replicate it. Never did I think I would get to try it, much less like this. Sea bass with a tomato bernaise sauce baked in a meticulously crafted crust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a great moment.

BOURDAIN: The fish is filled with a delicate lobster mousse and tarragon and wrapped carefully in pastry. Notice the careful and tableside carving and service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has been making the same thing for 50 years. Paul has an amazing respect for classic.

BOURDAIN: The peasant classic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tony, get closer.

BOURDAIN (on camera): You are totally sending me every one of those pictures, by the way. Wow. Look at that. This style of dish goes back long before cameras but it's perfect. Is there a more perfect assortment of colors and textures.

(voice-over): This one is a somewhat more luxurious version. Beef flanks, oxtail, veal flanks, chicken, marrow bones, beef ribs, leeks, carrots, turnips, fennel and parsnips, served with its own deeply rich broth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think it's enough for the two of us?

BOURDAIN: And then, this. As if the chef had been listening to my deepest, darkest secret yearnings, an almost completely disappeared, incredibly difficult preparation of wild hare. The animal is first slowly cooked, then coated by a sauce of its own minced heart, liver and lungs that has been thickened with its own blood.

After more than six hours of preparation, the hare is served as the chef prefers, whole on the bone, the rich glorious sauce finished with truffles and chart chartreuse. Absolutely the lost ark of the covenant.

(on camera): Everything great about cooking is encapsulated in this dish. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We continue all over the world to make cuisine for many generation to come.

BOURDAIN: Forever. I will never eat like this again in my life. Chef, Merci. The meal of my life.

(voice-over): Today, I was treated to the greatest hits of a glorious and fabled career. For the first and probably the last time, I sat next to the great man himself and Daniel and I were served a menu that chefs will look back on in a hundred years and smile at appreciably, sentimentally, respectfully.




BOURDAIN (voice-over): So me and Daniel were going hunting and over lunch, we mentioned that fact to Paul, who immediately insisted, insisted that if we wanted to go duck hunting, we should come by his crib, and so we find ourselves in the morning mist of le dawn, a rural area about a half hour outside Lyon. Sure enough, in spite of his 88 years, and the fact that he's been less than well, 9:00 a.m. On the nose, there he is, sitting on top of his beloved John Deere with his faithful dog ready to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice fresh morning.

BOURDAIN (on camera): That dog is happy.

(voice-over): The great chef loves this place, and you can see why. Monsuer Paul can't safely hunt but is happy to chase around flushing birds for us.


BOURDAIN (on camera): Yes, it is beautiful. I could do this all day. That was about as good as we're going to get. If you look long enough, you start hallucinating. You start hallucinating ducks where there aren't any.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see that one falling?

BOURDAIN (voice-over): OK, not a moment to waste. Quickly, a second shot. OK.


BOURDAIN (on camera): Yes. Right there. Between me and Daniel and the dog, we managed to actually bag a few ducks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job. Very good.

BOURDAIN: Easy shot.

(voice-over): Then it's back to the lodge, clearly Paul's happy place, where we meet up with some hunting buddies of the great chef.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did a good job, no?

BOURDAIN (on camera): Success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's fantastic.

BOURDAIN: Is this the hunting lodge, the weekend getaway, hang out with the guys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's where he comes every day, almost. Look at the picture behind. You see?

BOURDAIN (voice-over): For tonight's meal, we pluck and roast some woodcocks over an open fire. Cook up some well-aged duck and pheasant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They make mashed potato here.

BOURDAIN (on camera): There a head in there somewhere?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course.

BOURDAIN: That's happiness right there. I am a man of simple needs and I notice --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can spend the whole week and we'll be hunting, we'll be cooking, eating, drinking, and talking and that's beautiful.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): It is for me a dream to spend this time with a legend. But I'm thrilled that beaucoup himself seems delighted. In Lyonnes, he's the great chef, a public figure, a hero, an institution. Always treated with the greatest deference. Here it appear he's free to enjoy the simple things with friends, local farmers who talk to him like anybody else. It's a pretty damn magical thing to see.




BOURDAIN (voice-over): Like so many of his predecessors, he's basically a farm boy. He grew up milking cows and doing farm work here on his family's spread. There is as it turns out, something of a restaurant tradition to build on. The house on his farm was once a cafe as well, operated first by his grandparents and great grandparents. The famous Cafe Boulou was not the first place to keep that name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That kept it for 80 years, 100 year, then they closed it.

BOURDAIN: Meeting Daniel's dad, one seems to understand the roots of his perfectionism. His mom, dad, wife, Katherine and Danielle collaborate with some debate. On a super old school farmhouse classic. The sort of things good times, bad times, a family could make with stuff always readily available on the farm. Check this out. It's a hollowed out pumpkin layered with toasted chunks of stale bread, nutmeg, grated cheese, mushrooms, fresh cream from the cows and the meat of the pumpkin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And a layer of bacon also. Man, it's heavy.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Are you concerned the pumpkin is go I think to try to get out?

(voice-over): Daniel's dad can be a bit of a Golic MacGyver. You don't waste stuff and he's a bit of an inventor. An old washing machine turned still.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To seal it so there's no air coming in.

BOURDAIN: Leftover grape solids usually used to be make liquor, today a different use. If we can get it out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you put so much cement on it?

BOURDAIN: We'll be using this delightfully funky stuff to flavor the steam that cooks the vegetables from inside the still.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then we come back in an hour.

BOURDAIN: At dusk we settle for dinner.

(on camera): Look at that. Incredible. Look at that. Wow. The pumpkin is amazing. We also have that great sausage. Look at that. Cabbage and potatoes, all steamed in the still. The flavor you get from the fermented grape, awesome. Good. So good.

(voice-over): If you know Daniel can't really help himself. He's popping up and down, serving everybody, making sure everything is just right. Sitting here with his family in the house he grew up in, you can see where it all comes from. Their son is now a gigantic international success. When he was a young man at 14 sneezing in the field, did they ever anticipate this?


BOURDAIN: They all reflect the region hopefully. But in the best case, they're interdependent. They come from each other. In fact, who cooks in the great restaurants? Farm boys basically. That's who always cooked. My deepest thanks to your mother and your father. Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next time my father will make you drive the tractor.