Gisèle Masson, beloved owner of New York City’s iconic La Grenouille, a bastion of haute French cuisine in New York City, died on November 5 at the age of 89, reports The New York Times.
Together with her husband Charles Masson Sr., Gisèle opened La Grenouille in December 1962 in the middle of a blizzard. Charles Sr. became a staple fixture in the front of the house and attentively curated the restaurant’s atmosphere, while Gisèle ran the business side as “the brains” of the place, as described by her son, Charles Jr.
The restaurant is known for its skillful cuisine, attentive tableside service and welcoming spirit deeply beloved of the city, and of the rich and powerful jetsetters who couldn’t stay away (she and Charles Sr. once had a fight with Robert Kennedy over the vichyssoise that led to Charles calling him a “bad Democrat”).
The restaurant’s delightfully outdated website lists Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, Paul Newman, Woody Allen, David Bowie and Iman, Yves Saint Laurent, and the Duchess of Windsor among the “array of stars” that loved La Grenouille.
Gisèle is survived by her sons Philippe, La Grenouille’s present general manager, and Charles Jr., who will be at the helm of the forthcoming restaurant and bar at the Baccarat Hotel and Residences on Fifth Avenue, opening in February.
When it opened, La Grenouille was named by Charles Sr. in honor of Gisèle, whom he affectionately called “ma petite grenouille” (my little frog).
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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.