France’s most celebrated chef Paul Bocuse has died at the age of 91, after suffering from Parkinson’s disease for several years.
He died in his famous restaurant near Lyon, a local chef close to the family told AFP news agency.
French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute, describing him as the “incarnation of French cuisine”.
Bocuse rose to fame in the 1970s as a proponent of “nouvelle cuisine”, a healthier form of cooking.
The movement “profoundly changed” French cooking, Mr Macron said.
“His name alone summed up French gastronomy in its generosity and respect for tradition but also its inventiveness,” the French president said.
Chefs across the country would be “crying in their kitchens”, he added.
Bocuse’s restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, has had three Michelin stars since 1965 and he was named “chef of the century” by Michelin’s rival guide, the Gault-Millau, in 1989, and again by the Culinary Institute of America in 2011.
He was also a larger-than-life character who reportedly referred to himself in the third person, told People magazine in 1976 that women were “good cooks, but they are not good chefs” and maintained two long-term extramarital relationships while also having a series of shorter affairs.
“A lot is being made about my private life, and why not?” he said.
“I adore women and we live too long these days to spend a whole life with only one. I work as if I will live to be 100, and I enjoy life as if the next day will be my last.”
Tributes have poured in. French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb tweeted: “Paul Bocuse is dead. Gastronomy is in mourning.
“Mr Paul was France. Simplicity and generosity. Excellence and art of living. The pope of gastronomes leaves us. May our chefs, in Lyon, as in the four corners of the world, long cultivate the fruits of his passion.”
Paul Bocuse est mort, la Gastronomie est en deuil.
Monsieur Paul, c’était la France. Simplicité & générosité. Excellence & art de vivre.
Le pape des gastronomes nous quitte. Puissent nos chefs, à Lyon, comme aux quatre coins du monde, longtemps cultiver les fruits de sa passion. pic.twitter.com/XI0ozzzGJK
— Gérard Collomb (@gerardcollomb) January 20, 2018
The Olympique Lyonnais football team also tweeted a photograph of Bocuse, saying it was a “sad day” and describing him as a “symbol of the city of Lyon”.