Perrier: ‘If I was in New York, I would be the most famous French chef in the world.’

When Georges Perrier came to Philadelphia barely out of his teens, he introduced the city to French cuisine and the city fell in love, starting a restaurant revolution in Center City.

Next month, he’ll be honored at the opening gala of the Philadelphia International Arts Festival for the past four decades since opening Le Bec-Fin, first on Spruce Street in 1970 before moving to Walnut Street. Despite his successes — Esquire once called Le Bec the best French restaurant in America — he still apparently has some reservations about the city he put on the culinary map.

He said he does not believe in regrets, but Perrier wonders if he would have been more successful had settled he in New York.

“If I was in New York, I would have been the most famous French chef in the world. I am not even sure that the Michelin judges are willing to travel to Philadelphia,” he said in an interview last week.

PIFA’s gala caps a tumultuous year for Perrier. Last July, he said that he was closing Le Bec-Fin. But he abruptly reversed his decision on New Year’s Eve.

Perrier, 67, explained his change of heart: “Many days, I start out by going to the market at 5 a.m. and do not stop working until midnight. I was tired and pressured. The recession hurts us badly. I wanted to close, but chef Nicholas Elmi approached me to take over the restaurant, and I agreed to stay to help.”

Elite chefs coming next month

The week of April 10-17 will be epicurean heaven for local gourmets.

Eleven master chefs from Paris and Lyon are flying here to collaborate and create one-of-a-kind meals with local French chefs as part of PIFA.

When he was in Lyon, his hometown, last summer, Perrier enjoyed dining so much at Mathieu Viannay’s La Mere Brazier that he decided to pair with him for this week. Perrier said, “The meal at La Mere, a two-star Michelin restaurant, cost 950 euro for four and was worth every penny.”

While he would not reveal the planned menu, he said, “My creative juices are flowing.”

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