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November 17, 2018

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Las Vegas chefs mourn death of Roger Verge, father of ‘nouvelle cuisine’

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Roger Verge.

DB Brasserie Grand Opening at Venetian

Buddy Valastro and Daniel Boulud attend the grand opening of DB Brasserie by chef Boulud on Thursday, May 8, 2014, at the Venetian. Launch slideshow »

The Las Vegas culinary community breathed a collective sigh of sadness over the weekend hearing the news that one of the most influential chefs of the 20th century died Friday. Roger Verge, 85, was one of the founding fathers of “nouvelle cuisine.”

Roger applied its principles to his three-star Michelin restaurant Le Moulin de Mougins near Cannes in the South of France. Since 1969, he developed his “cuisines of the sun” there, which have been duplicated and presented by chefs up and down the Strip.

Daniel Boulud of the Venetian, Hubert Keller of Mandalay Bay and Alain Ducasse of Delano Las Vegas are three of the small army of future star chefs who trained under Roger.

Every year for the 14 consecutive years that I went to the Cannes Film Festival, I booked a table at his 70-seat restaurant that opened in 1969. Wolfgang Puck took me there the first time, and I was hooked ever since.

Roger became a good friend, and I tried hard to get him to open a U.S. restaurant. He did experiment with one at Rockefeller Center in New York, and its location was perfect for lunch but not dinner.

He teamed up with Paul Bocuse and Gaston Lenotre from 1982 to 2009 to open two restaurants at French Pavilion in Walt Disney’s Epcot Center in Florida.

When I was with the Food Network, I brought him to the Sands hotel in Atlantic City to re-create his restaurant for a weekend of high-roller events. He traveled to Las Vegas to check out the early days of our restaurant star-chef revolution but decided at his age not to launch one of his own here.

Roger’s celebrated cookbooks “Entertaining in the French Style” and “Cuisine of the South of France” were bestsellers, and copies are on many chefs’ shelves here in Las Vegas.

Roger always told me his food was “happy cuisine” — lighthearted, healthy and a natural way of cooking combining the products of the earth like a bouquet of wild flowers from a garden.

The kitchen king who blazed the trail for nouvelle cuisine has passed on to the great restaurant in the sky where today it has been renamed “heavenly cuisine.” Rest in peace, bon homme!

Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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