Eugénie Brazier: La Mère Brazier

Are you ready for a new month full of informative articles on women who left their imprint on this world? We will start off with the first chef who was awarded with a total of six Michelin stars: Eugénie Brazier. 📝

Brazier was also known as the “la mère Brazier”. She was known for her exquisite French cuisine, even famous stars like Marlene Dietrich enjoyed dining at Brazier’s restaurants. For this success she worked hard with a great deal of devotion. Even though she was this successful, she never opened more than her two culinary hotspots in Lyon. Remarkable about her is the fact that she is one of the 6 women included in the Michelin Guide. With this she broke with several cliches and is a perfect role model for women in the culinary world. 👩‍🍳

Read more about her success story, which is built upon dedication and discipline, in the full article below.

Eugénie Brazier| *12-06-1895 | † 02-03-1997 | France | Chef

Eugénie Brazier, also known as “la mère Brazier”, was a French chef and the first person to be awarded a total of six Michelin stars. Brazier owned two successful restaurants that attracted culinary critics and even well-known people like Marlene Dietrich and Charles de Gaulle. Characterised by her strong devotion and selectivity, she became one of the best French chefs of her time. However, contrary to her male colleagues, little was written about her.

Brazier was born on June 12th 1985 in La Tranclière, a small village near Lyon. She spent her life living on a farm and got used to doing hard work. For Brazier this meant that she could only attend school during the winters and had to work on the land during the summers. When she was only five years old, Brazier’s mother taught her how to cook two different recipes of pies. Those pies were the first recipes that the young girl was able to cook.

Brazier delivered a son when she was 20 years old outside marriage, which was frowned upon at that time. She decided to leave the farm in search of work, so she could provide her family. She landed on a job in the domestic services, working as a nanny. Not much later, the young mother switched careers and started working for the celebrated chef Françoise Fayolle, who only employed women. During this time Brazier mastered her cooking skills, which led her to opening her own restaurant called “La Mère Brazier” in 1921.

The chef was praised for her dishes by many critics and her restaurant became a famous culinary hotspot. She soon opened another restaurant, also located in Lyon, called “Col de la Luère”. Her most famous dish was known as “The chicken in half-mourning”, which name derived from its appearance; black truffle slices were stuck in the skin of the chicken which was poached in a bouillon and afterwards served with a creamy sauce.

Brazier was a modest woman and had no longing desire for fame or to open more restaurants in foreign countries. “I have an instinct that stops me from putting my feet on ground that is not mine”, she stated. In pictures she is almost always portrayed in a white button-up, a towel at her waist and her hair in a bun, which showed her happiness for working as a chef. She always had a clean kitchen and was really well organised. Brazier was a hard worker and demanded the best from her staff. That did, however, not mean that she was rude to her employees, she is remembered for her generosity and humour.

After a mere 15 years of experience in the French cuisine, Brazier was awarded a total of six Michelin stars, 3 for each of her restaurants. The Michelin Guide or “the red book” was brought to life in 1926 and contained a selection of the best restaurants in all comfort and price categories. At first, only one star was awarded, but in 1931 it was decided to include 2 and 3 stars as well, with 3 stars being defined as “exquisite cuisine, worth a special journey”.

Remarkably, only a few women are awarded with this prestigious prize. A study from researchers Majd Haddaji, Jose Albors-Garrigós and Purificación García-Segovia showed that even in 2014 only 6 out of 110 awarded chefs were female. The French cuisine is intertwined with gender roles and not accessible for women. Often the culinary world is described as “brimming with machismo”. In the 1930’s, when Brazier was awarded her 6th star, the cuisine was slightly more tolerant towards women, but was still heavily male dominated.Brazier would reign an impressive 65 years as the only person to be awarded with six Michelin stars for two restaurants, until Alain Ducasse achieved the six stars in 1998. Brazier died in 1977, aged 81. Her only recipe book was released posthumously in 2009 with the help of her family. In 2014 the book called  “La Mere Brazier: The Mother of Modern French Cooking” was released in English.


Author: Annika Eskes
Image: Amanda Winnemuller

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