Famed French chef Paul Bocuse will present the medal in New York at Keller’s legendary Per Se Restaurant in the Time Warner Center. Once awarded, Keller will join a very elite group of only two other Americans. Alice Waters and Julia Child are the only other U.S. citizens from the culinary world to be so honored. Bravo Thomas!
The Legion of Honor (or Legion d’Honneur to use the correct French term) was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The French Revolution had swept away the ancient merit system which honored only the “achievements” of the nobility. Napoleon wanted a new system that acknowledged talent, not birth or inherited family wealth.
With this intent in mind, Napoleon ordered the creation of the Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur, the first modern order based on merit and creative contribution. Though most often given only to French citizens, exceptions have been made for those individuals who have honored the traditions and values of France around the world, despite their nationality.
One such person was the remarkable Josephine Baker, who dazzled the French with her singing and great beauty, but won their hearts with her courageous resistance efforts during World War II and her noble humanitarian efforts after the War ended.
Napoleon once said that medals and awards were but glittering baubles but that such things mattered because they inspire, they motivate, they tell us who is worthy to be followed. In awarding this great medal to Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame, they could not have chosen better.
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2011