Chez Orsi – Chef Pierre Orsi
Here I present another set of photos I've revisited while working on a current project — Chasing Stars: The Quest for Michelin Glory in France. This time I was in Lyon where I had the honour of going behind the scenes with French culinary legend, Pierre Orsi.
It's not often that you get to meet a legend, but there he was, dressed in chef's whites from head to toe, welcoming us into the three-story historic mansion on Place Kléber in the centre of Lyon, where he has lived, cooked, and been feeding people for decades.
Lyon, halfway between Paris in the north and Provence in the south. Lyon, the place Anthony Bourdain called the culinary capital of France and perhaps the world. Lyon, where you could find two of the legends of French cuisine – Paul Bocuse and Pierre Orsi.
Of all the five hundred odd one-star chefs in France, Pierre Orsi has perhaps the most accolades and achievements. He was certainly the oldest one, at 75, still working in the kitchen everyday. He'd had a Michelin star the longest (since 1977, only finally losing his star in 2019, at the age of 80) and he'd seen more talented young chefs pass through his kitchen than trains through the Gare du Nord.
"Sit down," chef gestured to two chairs in the old-fashioned but elegant lobby, "I will be back." And he scurried out, through the door to the kitchen, to give some instructions to the brigade, the cooking team. When he reappeared, he plunked down in a chair across from us, leaned in, cupped his chin in hand. "Okay, now you ask me questions."
Braaang. Before we can open our notebooks or our mouths the phone rings and Chef jumps up to answer it. "Oui, bonjour, c'est Pierre Orsi...oui, samedi soir...à quel nom?...d'accord, we'll see you Saturday night." Chef is taking reservations.
We finally began our interview, but Chef jumped up every few minutes to answer the phone – to take more reservations, to talk to his buddy in Cape Cod ("J'adore Cap Cod," he stage whispered to us while he was on the phone), to transfer another call to a line upstairs.
Sixty years behind the stove and Orsi was still involved in every aspect of this large and famous restaurant. At one time it held two stars, but now we were to learn that he was uncertain about the future and about holding on to his star.