Raymond Oliver, Pioneer of Television Chefs

Raymond Oliver, Pioneer of Television Chefs

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It is customary to consider Paul Bocuse as the first star of the kitchen. And it’s true that from the second half of the 1960s he was the locomotive of the “new cuisine”… But it is indeed Raymond Oliver, Girondin with a broad build, a neat beard, a deep voice and singing, who embodied, thanks to television, the first great media leader. From 1954 to 1968, with his accomplice, Catherine Langeais, he made “Art and magic of cooking” the founding model of our cooking shows, to the point that, ten years after the end of the weekly, an IFOP poll still consecrated Raymond Oliver “best cook in France”in front of… Paul Bocuse.

Raymond Oliver arrives on the small screen following a disaster. In 1953, the French Broadcasting-Television (RTF) offered “The Recipes of Monsieur X”, in this case those of the actor Georges Adet. Apron over the costume, approximate know-how, professorial tone and off-putting slowness… It was such a flop that she was arrested after only a year. The kitchen had successfully entered British programs as early as the late 1930s, the culinary activist James Beard already broaching the subject on a channel American at the end of the war, but the RTF flounders. Let’s try an explanation: kingdom of good food, France thought it could do without a television pedagogy while the art of concoction was not so common in the United Kingdom or the United States.

Three Michelin stars thanks to its sweetbreads with verjuice, its Rainier III pigeon or its Louis Oliver fried egg, served with pan-fried foie gras and Périgueux sauce

After the fiasco of Georges Adet, one thing is obvious: only a professional, and not a dilettante, will be able to educate French viewers. Born in 1909 into an illustrious family of restaurateurs in Langon (Gironde), Raymond Oliver forged his expertise in the family hotel. Since 1948, he flourished as chef-owner of the Grand Véfour, a historical and gastronomic monument of the capital, at the Palais-Royal. It imposes itself by mixing roots of the South-West, creativity and erudition. “The Prince of Véfour was the most learned and cultivated famous cook of the post-war period”writes Nicolas de Rabaudy (Memoirs of a gourmet at the tableLes Editions du Mécène, 2021).

A great collector of culinary works, Raymond Oliver obtained three Michelin stars thanks to his chicken with garlic, his sweetbreads with verjuice, his pigeon Rainier III or his fried egg Louis Oliver, set with pan-fried foie gras and sauce. perigueux. Colette and Jean Cocteau come running, the media too. The director of France-EveningPierre Lazareff, and the co-founder of Europe n°1, Louis Merlin, then facilitated Oliver’s arrival at the RTF. The chef, whom his clients know hairless, appears bearded on the small screen. “He made his first shoot after a vacation in Corsica where he had let his beard grow. He kept it”says his son, Michel Oliver, who himself became a star chef on television in the late 1970s.

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