When he set out for Brazil from his native France in 1979, it was with the intention to stay for two years at most. Almost four decades later, Claude Troisgros is as in love with his adopted Rio de Janeiro as the day he first arrived, and the Troisgros name grows ever stronger across Latin America.
Synonymous with outstanding and innovative French cuisine, the Troisgros family has established a stellar reputation over four generations. Claude’s grandfather, Jean-Baptiste, created a furore in gastronomic circles by pairing fish with red wine more than five decades ago. Claude’s father, Pierre, and Pierre’s late brother Jean turned the family’s modest restaurant into the three-Michelin-star Troisgros in Roanne. And, along with fellow chef Paul Bocuse, the brothers revolutionised French cooking in the sixties and seventies by pioneering Nouvelle Cuisine.
Born into such a famed family and growing up above their restaurant, the young Claude was able to make a beurre blanc before most kids could tie their shoelaces. He took an apprenticeship with Bocuse at age 16 and from there worked at some of Europe’s finest restaurants, including Taillevent in Paris, The Connaught in London and Tantris in Munich. It was when his father walked into the Troisgros kitchen and asked “who wants to go to Rio?” that Claude’s life and career really changed.
Working for famed pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre at Le Pré Catalan in Rio, Claude quickly fell in love – both with the city and with the woman he would marry and later have two children with. He began to work with native Brazilian produce and developed a style of ‘tropical French’ cooking that became his signature. A small restaurant in Rio called Roanne quickly grew in popularity and in 1983 he opened the eponymous Claude Troisgros, to be renamed Olympe two decades later, after his mother.
His 37-year stay in Brazil has been punctuated with stints in New York and Miami, but Claude has always returned to the Marvellous City, where he now runs the hugely successful Olympe with son Thomas. Several times voted best chef in Rio and awarded accolades from almost all of Brazil’s prominent publications, he is as popular in the industry as in the public eye, where he is well-known as the lively presenter of TV programme Que Marravilha!
Adopting Brazil’s native ingredients and fine-tuning them with French techniques into dishes such as palm heart carpaccio and caramelised pancake soufflé with passion fruit sauce, the chef is as fully assimilated into Brazilian culture as he is integrated into the country’s hearts and minds. As he approaches forty years in Latin America, it’s a tribute to his work that he has helped earn the family name as strong a reputation abroad as in France.
Rua Custódio Serrão 62
Rio de Janeiro
+55 21 2539 4542
Images: Thomas Rangel