Roger Verge, one of France’s most well known culinary figures and one of the original owners of Les Chefs de France at Epcot, died Friday at his home in Mougins. He was 85.
Verge and fellow French cooks Gaston LeNotre and Paul Bocuse, opened Les Chefs de France and its sister restaurant, Bistro de Paris, at Walt Disney World in 1983. They are credited with bringing French cuisine to thousands of Americans and other world travelers, though few who dine at the Epcot restaurants are ever really aware that they are eating in a restaurant owned by celebrity chefs. LeNotre, who made his name as a pastry chef, died in 2009. Bocuse is 88, and although his son and grandchild live in Orlando, where he also kept a house, he seldom leaves his home near Lyon.
Verge’s restaurant, Moulin de Mougins, earned its third Michelin star in 1974. He was known for advancing Mediterranean style French cooking and he considered vegetables a forte. Such well known chefs as David Bouley and Daniel Boulud cooked under him. He sold his restaurant and retired in 2003.
“He was a great chef, very creative, a gentleman,” said Bruno Vrignon, executive chefs at the France pavilion at Epcot. “And generous. I have great memories of when we were together.”
Although all three chefs often made regular visits to their Walt Disney World restaurants in the early years — I have a wonderful memory of a lunch with all three of them as they argued, in French, over the best way to roast a pepper — Verge had not made the trip for several years. The business is now overseen by Bocuse’s son, Jerome.