“I learned of his death from relatives. The village expresses a deep sadness”, told . Christian Guyot, the mayor of Saint-Père-sous-Vézelay (Yonne), family village of Marc Meneau where he had set up its restaurant L’Espérance.
“He had created something very big. It was a big monument”, added the mayor of the village of some 300 inhabitants near Avallon.
“I have never been an apprentice in the big houses and I learned cooking from books”, liked to tell the self-taught chef, who was born on March 16, 1943 from a father saddler and a mother grocer .
“I spent my first vacation at the Cuisiniers de Paris library, looking for authentic recipes and advice from the great masters. Even today, it is in books that I draw my ideas. When you are self-taught, you can not do everything, but you can not cheat, “he said in a portrait interview published on his official website.
Claiming to have come to the kitchen out of “love” for his wife Françoise, the daughter of Burgundian restaurateurs, he had taken over his mother Marguerite’s café-grocery store in Saint-Père-sous-Vézelay, which he quickly transformed into a restaurant.
It was there that he obtained his first Michelin star, in 1972. Recognition gave him the opportunity to see bigger: he created L’Espérance in the same village, which quickly became one of the high places of gastronomy.
Serge Gainsbourg and the musician Mstislav Rostropovich will have their napkin ring there.
The second star was won in 1975, then the third in 1983, the year in which Marc Meneau was elected “Best French cook of the year” by Gault and Millau.
Innovative spirit, he embarks on meals in tubes or miniaturized. He is one of the first great chefs to plant an organic vegetable garden.
However, he lost one star in 1999. He recovered it five years later, but in 2007 his company was placed in liquidation. He succeeded for the first time in reopening L’Espérance, but a second liquidation occurred in 2015.
One year later, the emblematic restaurant was bought by the Hôtel & Food Disrpt Partners group, founded in particular by Alain Ducasse.
The group had announced 14 million euros of investment in 2017 and a reopening of L’Espérance in 2019 but “the projects have not yet come to fruition,” said the mayor of Saint-Père.