Bruno Vrignon, executive chef at Epcot’s France pavilion, announced Friday that he was retiring after 38 years.
Vrignon, 61, has been chef at the pavilion since it opened, in 1982. Prior to that, he was chef de partie at Restaurant Paul Bocuse in Collonges-au-Mont-d’or, near Lyon, France. The French restaurants at Epcot, including Chefs de France and Monsieur Paul, are operated by JBI LLC, a company owned by Jerôme Bocuse, the son of the late master chef.
A native of St. Hilaire de Talmont, a village in western France, Vrignon’s first culinary job was preparing meals in a castle for a noble family. He also worked at L’Eaubergarde in Paris under Lucien Ogier and Jean Bordier before joining the Bocuse organization in 1980. He has cooked for the Dalai Lama at a benefit in New York and was the chef for the French team at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Vrignon, who has dual citizenship, said Friday that he does not have any immediate career plans but he intends to stay in the area. “I’m a chef, so I can work anywhere,” he told me.
As for who would take over as executive chef, Eric Weistroffer, JBI’s executive director, said that no decision has been made.
The full-service restaurants at the pavilion remain closed. A bakery and an ice cream shop are open as is a food kiosk for the streamlined version of the food and wine festival that is currently operating at the theme park.
Asked when the restaurants would reopen, Weistroffer couldn’t say. Most of the French staff members, including almost all of the servers, returned home when Epcot closed. Although the theme park has opened, its attendance numbers have not been sufficient to fully reopen all the culinary operations, he said, or to bring back the furloughed staff.
Note: A previous version of this article featured a statement from Eric Weistroffer who jokingly questioned whether the France pavilion restaurants would reopen. JBI has every intention of reopening the restaurants when it is safe and reasonable to do so.