Check any restaurant in Philadelphia that matters and you’re bound to find at least one cook in the kitchen that’s spent time on the line at Le Bec-Fin. Though the fine dining institution ended its 42 year run under its founding chef Georges Perrier on Saturday, the restaurant and Perrier’s legacy will continue to live under the hoods at many of this city’s kitchens for years to come. Everyone from R2L’s Daniel Stern and Blackfish, Mica and Ela owner Chip Roman to Bibou’s Pierre Calmels and Meritage’s Anne Coll came up at Le Bec under Perrier’s tutelage. In an attempt to do a little “Monday morning quarterbacking”, Grub caught up with several Perrier alumni to get a sense of what made the restaurant so great and what ultimately led to its demise. Keep reading to see what they have to say.
Lee Styer, Chef and Co-Owner, Fond
I learned so much so fast while working there. Watching Georges work, his work ethic and all the passion that he put into his food got all of us younger people in the kitchen excited. If this old guy can run around like this all day and all night and have this much passion, we had no excuse not to do the same. I was very, very lucky to work there with him and with Pierre (Calmels, chef-owner at Bibou). Aside from the food and all, Georges has been nothing but supportive to us here at Fond, and Jesse at the Belle Cakery. I know there’s a lot of negative out there about him, but he can be incredibly generous too.
Peter Woolsey, Chef-Owner, Bistrot La Minette
I think its pretty effed up that a restaurant like Le Bec-Fin can’t make it in this town. Georges should never have dumbed it down, put a burger on the menu or offer an a la carte menu like he did a couple years ago. That was the beginning of the end. What he should’ve done — and it sounds like what the new owners are going to do — is go the opposite direction. Hire a hot-shit chef and make it the best damn French restaurant in this country. That’s what Thomas Keller’s doing, and it doesn’t seem like he’s having trouble filling seats.
The closing I think is a real shame. I moved to Philly 13 years ago, and when I got here, I didn’t know where else to go. That was the first restaurant I went to and they hired me to be the garde manger. I thought the food was interesting, but not breathtaking. But before we had Stephen Starr, and before even Neil Stein, Georges put Philly on the map in terms of restaurants. But he didn’t change with the times. He never wanted to change. I’ve learned that you have to evolve in this business.
My time there was just as important to me being a pastry chef as culinary school was, if not more. I learned tons. It was an invaluable experience. It was incredibly stressful and intense, and that used to scare me sometimes. But ultimately it pushed me to do better. As sad as I am to see it closing, Chef Perrier has had a really long, long run, and I’m happy that he finally gets to relax and the restaurant gets a whole new chance.