The patron saint of chefs

Friday, 10th August, is San Lorenzo’s Day or St. Lawrence's Day. Lorenzo was a priest and a bit of a radical. He defied the Roman emperor Valerian by giving away all the riches of the church to the poor instead of to the imperial treasury as demanded.

By Jeremy Ryland


The Roman prefect was so angry that he had a large gridiron barbecue prepared with hot coals beneath it. Lorenzo was placed on the gridiron over the coals – and legend has it that after he had suffered pain for some time, he cheerfully declared: "I'm well done on this side, turn me over!" And hence Lorenzo is the patron saint of cooks, chefs and comedians. He died on the 10 August 258 – 1760 years ago.


Christian Millau, co-founder of Gault&Millau, was also a change agent – and he sadly died a year ago on 5 August 2017 at the age of 88 but under happier less painful circumstances. Born in Paris in 1928, Christian was a food critic and author. Christian was fiercely independent and was not shy when communicating his dining experiences. Whilst chefs feared his analysis, he was well respected for his fair and ethical opinions. He was a supporter of the classic French “true cuisine” but also was the originator of “nouvelle cuisine”. Nouvelle Cuisine became popular in the 1960’s and was a break from the past formal French cuisine. Nouvelle cuisine is lighter with clean, more delicate flavours and an increased emphasis on presentation. Henri Gault and Christian Millau promoted the term to describe the cooking of Paul Bocuse and other top chefs of the time.


Christian launched the famed Gault & Millau guide in 1969 with his colleague Henri Gault, which helped promote young chefs to develop lighter, more inventive and beautiful looking dishes. Christian Millau’s ambition was to make readers want to go to the restaurants he wrote about. “A restaurant is theatre, so we must give the reader the desire to visit ” – which gave rise to the Yellow Guide. Christian’s philosophy on chefs was “a chef is an artist, a craftsman, he or she must be faithful to their own tastes and must not let themselves follow fashions and trends of time which will make them deviate obligatorily at one time or another ”.


Like the patron saint of chefs, San Lorenzo, Christian Millau held true to his beliefs and worked to identify areas where his followers, the chefs, could improve – a foundation that continues throughout the Gault&Millau network today.