Walnut Hill College and Georges Perrier announce new University City restaurant, Bistro Perrier

A return to classic French cuisine and tableside service

By Sharlene Johnson

As published in the University City Review, September 5, 2018

 

“This is my [last] stop. I’ll cook whatever they want me to do, but I will not do anything for anybody else, except Walnut Hill College.” -Georges Perrier

Getting ready for the start of another school year is always an exciting challenge for the chef instructors at Walnut Hill College. Doing that in conjunction with the launch of a brand new restaurant concept has brought the usual hustle and bustle on the University City campus to a fever pitch, as the team not only puts the finishing touches on a new menu but also prepares to teach their students how to make each dish to perfection. While that may seem daunting to some, the college’s experienced chef instructors are up to the task, and they received some expert guidance from a familiar face and a culinary legend: Walnut Hill College Master-in-Residence, Georges Perrier. Chef Perrier’s involvement in the new restaurant is no coincidence—after all, it bears his name. Opening Wednesday, September 5, Bistro Perrier is an ode to the classic French bistro and represents the close relationship between Walnut Hill College and Chef Perrier that has endured for years.

A long-time friend of the college, Georges Perrier was named Master-in-Residence in 2017 and will lead workshops for Walnut Hill College students and staff in the coming school year. He was set to start his duties last school year; however, a severe heart attack in March almost took his life and resulted in him having to undergo emergency surgery. Thankfully, Chef Perrier survived, and after months recuperating, he is finally ready to return to the kitchen to assist with preparations for a restaurant he holds dear.

In honor of the renowned chef, Walnut Hill College has appropriately named its new restaurant Bistro Perrier, serving French cuisine in a European courtyard setting. Leading the staff behind the restaurant is Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Operations, Todd Braley, former co-chef/owner of The Pickled Heron in Fishtown. Chef Braley and his team have created a menu that highlights uniquely French fare, including Salade Lyonnaise, Escargots en Croûte, and Steak Tartare, while paying homage to Chef Perrier with daily specials from his famed Le Bec-Fin menu. Bistro Perrier will also offer tableside service, allowing guests to have an entertaining and heightened sensory experience as they watch their food being prepared by Walnut Hill College’s Hotel and Restaurant Management students.

Of course, no restaurant named after a chef of Perrier’s caliber would be complete without a lesson from the man himself, which is why the college’s chef instructors became students for a day as Chef Perrier taught them how to make sauces, his specialty. On Thursday, August 16, Chef Perrier presented Walnut Hill College’s first ever “atelier du chef,” or chef’s workshop, a pedagogical initiative designed to help the chef instructors create standardized cooking procedures to teach their students. Working side by side with Chef Perrier, the instructors whipped up Sauce Béarnaise, Sauce Choron, Sauce Rouennaise, and Jus de Poulet, and they relished the opportunity to learn something new about sauces they’ve been making for years from one of the most accomplished chefs in the industry.

Bistro Perrier

Chef Georges Perrier
Executive Chef Todd Braley (right)
Chef Perrier leads the first "atelier du chef," or chefs' workshop, at Walnut Hill College
Chef Perrier poses with Walnut Hill College chef instructors
Chef Perrier and the entire chef faculty at Walnut Hill College
Mussels et Frites: Saffron, Dijon, White Wine
Petit Salé aux Lentilles: Salted Pork, Le Puy Lentils
Escargots en Croute: Cornmeal Sable
Coquilles St. Jacques: Polenta, Bouillon de Saffron
Salade Lyonnaise: Frisée, Lardons, Poached Egg
Steak Frites: Red Wine Jus
Filet de Lotte à la Provençal: Pan Roasted Monkfish, Tomato, Olives
Parisienne Gnocchi: Parsnips, Fine Herbs
Bistro Perrier at night

After the workshop, Chef Perrier sat down with the team at Walnut Hill College to talk about Bistro Perrier, his life after a near-death experience, and the next generation of chefs.

It’s been a little over six years since you left Le Bec-Fin, your renowned restaurant, and now here we are preparing for the opening of a restaurant that has been named in your honor. What does Bistro Perrier mean to you?

Well, you know, I’ll tell you something. When you’re recognized by your peers, there is nothing better in life. Customers are nice, but your peers, if they recognize you, the chefs…my people, that’s very special to me.

And now you’re getting to work alongside your peers today.

You know, I always say in life, when you teach what you know to other people, it’s wonderful. That’s the way I learned. And that’s the way they learned, because what I did today, they will remember that the rest of their lives, and they will use it and do it. Simple as that. Cooking ain’t complicated. We [chefs] make it complicated, but it’s not complicated.

So earlier this year, you had a pretty serious health scare. What’s it like being back in the kitchen doing what you love?

You know…I almost died. As a matter of fact, I got sick. I was dead. And when I was lying down on the floor, I said nobody’s gonna help me, I’m gonna die right now. I saw death. And then finally, somebody came and gave me bouche a bouche [mouth to mouth]. Oh man. Yeah, she saved my life. The doctor said if she would have not done that, I would have been dead. I was dead. Very, very lucky. I guess it was not my time.

Wow. And we’re grateful for that.

Yeah, I’m very grateful. You cannot take life for granted. Now, I see everything in a different view, eyes. I’m very senseful [sic] and very lucky. I’m a very lucky guy. I should not be here, you know, to have pleasure, what I have, you know, a lot of pleasure. I could be dead.

Now Chef, as Master-in-Residence, you’ll be helping to guide our students and teach them some of the skills you’ve learned over your long career. What advice would you give to somebody who’s just starting out on their culinary journey?

Don’t get frustrated.

Simple as that?

Don’t get frustrated. Learn patience. You know, cooking is not [learned] in one day. You gotta be patient. It comes every day. You know, even I’m 74 years old, and I’m still learning. I was somewhere…where was I? I was somewhere with a friend of mine, and I tasted something. I said, “What is this? Why is this so good? How did you do it?” I said, “You gotta give me the recipe.” The guy gave me the recipe. I didn’t think he would, but he gave it to me.

So one last question for you, Chef. Beyond Walnut Hill College, what’s next for you? What do you have going on?

This is my [last] stop. I’ll cook whatever they want me to do, but I will not do anything for anybody else, except Walnut Hill College.

You have a long history here at the college.

Yeah, and I like the people. I like the owner, Danny, and they respect me. Everybody’s nice. I can do my stuff. Nobody interferes. That’s what I like, and I like to come here. You know, it’s nice when you’re older to still be able to cook, cause it makes me feel good. I need it. I feel relaxed, and I’m glad. The [chefs today] were so excited. You could see they were happy to learn something. I felt that today. They were really excited. You know, that’s what counts.

Bistro Perrier opens to the public on Wednesday, September 5 at Walnut Hill College, located at 4207 Walnut Street. For more information, including the menu and reservations, visit BistroPerrier.com or call (267) 295-2302.


Georges Perrier is the inspiration behind the new Bistro Perrier in Philadelphia

His world-famous restaurant, Le Bec-Fin, was one of the most renowned restaurants in the world for 44 years. Now, Georges Perrier is the inspiration behind Bistro Perrier, a classic French bistro at Walnut Hill College. The restaurant will showcase traditional French fare, led by Executive Chef Todd Braley.

Georges Perrier at Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia

Known for bringing French cuisine to the forefront of Philadelphia’s restaurant scene, Georges Perrier is a culinary legend in the city, and he’s been a long-time friend of Walnut Hill College. Chef Perrier became Master-in-Residence at the college in 2017, and he began his role at “Le Bec-Fin Redux,” a one-night-only reprisal of his famous menu in the restaurant that would later become Bistro Perrier. That summer, he would go on to lead a lucky group of food and wine enthusiasts on a gastronomic tour of France. Much like the tour of France that our culinary and pastry students take, this unique trip with Chef Perrier and fellow French chef Esther McManus included visits to farms, vineyards, wineries, and restaurants throughout the Champagne and Burgundy regions, as well as a jaunt through Paris. The group received insider insight and exclusive access to French eateries as Chef Perrier’s special guests, making their trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Down the road, Chef Perrier will also help guide the careers of young culinarians at Walnut Hill College. He’ll teach classes, host special dinners, and lead workshops for professional chefs on the WHC campus. Imagine how a young culinarian will feel as Chef Perrier guides them and inspires their career. It is truly a life-changing opportunity.

About Georges Perrier:
 
Originally from Lyon, France, a city world-renowned for its culinary arts, Chef Perrier began his accomplished culinary career at age fourteen. He trained with the great chefs at some of the finest restaurants of France, including Michel Lorrain of Casino de Charbonnières near Lyon, Jacques Picard of L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence, and Guy Thivard at La Pyramide in Vienne, owned by the legendary Ferdinand Point. Chef Perrier arrived in Philadelphia in 1967 as Head Chef for Peter von Starck’s La Panetière. Three years later, Perrier opened his own restaurant at 1312 Spruce Street. He named the restaurant “Le Bec-Fin,” a French idiom for “the good taste.” The small restaurant quickly became a Philadelphia institution. The restaurateur refused invitations to relocate to Manhattan, Los Angeles, and Chicago, opting instead to pave the way for Philadelphia’s restaurant renaissance. Visitors to the city considered Le Bec-Fin an essential stop, and regular patrons traveled from New York and Washington D.C. for a single meal.
 
During its forty years in operation, Le Bec-Fin and Chef Perrier received the highest accolades in the hospitality industry. Le Bec-Fin was the only Philadelphia dining establishment to receive the five-star rating from the Mobil Travel Guide for a total of twenty-three years in a row. In 1994, readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine chose Le Bec-Fin as the #1 restaurant in the country. The restaurant also garnered top honors in prestigious publications such as Gourmet, Food & Wine, Esquire and Wine Spectator magazines. In 1998, Chef Perrier was honored by America’s leading culinary organization when he was awarded Best Mid-Atlantic Chef by the James Beard Foundation. Chef Perrier’s first book, Georges Perrier Le Bec-Fin Recipes, was published in 1997 and contains more than 100 recipes. In 2009, Chef Perrier was in Paris, France to receive the highest French honor bestowed on a person who distinguished themselves through civilian or military valor, the Legion d’Honneur. In 2010, Chef Perrier received the Academiciens de l’Annee, the high honor presented by the Academie Culinaire de France. (Bio courtesy of AudreyClaireCook.com.)

An ode to the classic French bistro

Walnut Hill College has focused on educating students in the art of French cuisine since it was founded in 1974. From beef bourguignon to crème brûlée, our students have learned the techniques and flavors of France, and we are delighted to showcase their talents at our new signature restaurant, Bistro Perrier. So what makes this bistro stand out from the rest in the booming Philadelphia food scene? As an ode to the classic French bistro, Bistro Perrier intends to revive the long-lost art of true hospitality.

Student Doing a Tableside Flambé Demonstration

Bistro Perrier is set in our European courtyard, which features charming cobblestone paths and an intimate rooftop deck. This quaint and relaxed atmosphere serves as the perfect backdrop for a bistro-style dining experience. We want our guests to feel at home as they enjoy delicious food and wine with friends and family over a long dinner, much like one would at a bistro in the heart of Paris.

Bistro Perrier in the European Courtyard

Continuing the theme of a family-oriented dinner, Bistro Perrier will also offer tableside service. Guests will have the pleasure of watching our management students prepare dishes like Steak au Poivre and Crêpes Suzette Flambés right at their table. Tableside service will give our students the opportunity to hone their hospitality skills while engaging with diners, who we’re sure will enjoy this unique experience.

The Legendary Le Bec-Fin

While the setting and the service shine, the food is set to be the star of the show. We’ve taken inspiration from our esteemed Master-in-Residence, Georges Perrier, to create a menu that hearkens to the days of Le Bec-Fin. Signature dishes include Chef Perrier’s Galette de Crabe, or crab cake, and Bouillabaisse de Marseille, a traditional fish stew. The menu also features Escargots en Croûte and Parisienne Gnocchi as well as traditional Crème Brûlée and Tarte aux Pommes, made with apple, salted caramel, and vanilla.

We hope to have you join us for the grand opening of Bistro Perrier on Wednesday, September 5. For reservations, please call (215) 222-4200 or visit us on OpenTable.


Walnut Hill College Pride

Education is our pride and joy. For over 40 years, Walnut Hill College has been dedicated to teaching the future leaders in fine dining and hospitality. Whether they’re working in the front or the back of the house during service in our four restaurants or learning the ins and outs of the business in our management classes, our students receive real-world training that prepares them for success in their chosen career field.
Walnut Hill College is a boutique college with a specific focus on culinary, pastry, and hospitality training. The small size of the college allows our students to truly hone their craft with specialized instruction and more personal guidance from our instructors than larger institutions can provide. Because of this, WHC is like a family, and we relish the relationships that we develop with our students while they’re with us and that we maintain for years after they graduate.
 
We also take pride in providing product excellence. Everything from the desserts in our pastry shop to the dinners in our restaurants reflects our students’ creativity, diligence, and attention to detail. With each new term of classes, our students strive to improve upon their previous work so that we can offer the public even more innovative and delicious dishes. As our students graduate and move on to pursue their careers, we’re excited to see their talents shine in the industry–and equally as excited to train the next group of culinary, pastry, and hospitality hopefuls at the start of their journey.