Renowned chef Roger André Fessaguet, who brought haute French cuisine to Manhattan with his restaurants Le Poulailler and La Caravelle, died on Wednesday, April 3rd in Damariscotta, Maine. Fessaguet was 82.
As head chef of La Caravelle, Fessaguet, the consummate French chef, prepared a different menu each day for the restaurant that immediately marked its territory at the center of New York’s fine dining scene when it opened in 1960.
Under Fessaguet’s guidance, the kitchen delivered beautifully executed French classics like roast duck, stuffed turbot, and soufflés. Fessaguet had only arrived in New York from France in 1949, then 17 years old.
During its first year, Joseph Kennedy visited regularly, and when JFK was elected president in 1961, Fessaguet personally trained the White House chef, René Verdon.
Among the guests who came to enjoy Fessaguet’s fine work included Pablo Picasso, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Marlene Dietrich, to name a few.
“French classical cuisine has lost its staunchest supporter” said André Jammet, who was Fessaguet’s business partner for four years before Fessaguet retired. “He had a quasi-religious lifelong devotion to Escoffier’s French classical cuisine, and saw it as his mission in life to deliver this culinary “gospel’’ to the public and his peers through his cooking, his writings, and his teachings.”
Although La Caravelle closed in 2004 on May 22nd, its place in New York culinary history lives on because of chefs like Fessaguet.
“Working with Roger, I witnessed firsthand his professionalism and hard work,” Jammet continued. “[He was] very demanding of his colleagues and his team, he nevertheless would have done anything to help and support them. Many young cooks have learned solid culinary lessons from Roger and went on to advance in the profession.”
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.