French pastry king Gaston Lenotre dies aged 88

The French pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre, whose successful catering business made him a household name, died aged 88 yesterday after a long illness, his company said.

Lenôtre is widely credited with rejuvenating the world of patisserie by using less sugar and flour in favour of light mousses and creams with bold new fruit flavours.

"He succeeded, with his talent and his creativity, his rigour and his high standards, in raising patisserie to the rank of an art," The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, said.

Paul Bocuse, one of France's most respected chefs, said the Lenôtre signature on a cake was as prestigious as the Christian Dior name on a dress.

Born in Normandy in 1920, Lenôtre developed a passion for baking early in life. He opened his first pastry shop in Normandy in 1947 before moving to Paris 10 years later.

In 1964, he expanded into catering for receptions, a business that flourished into an international chain of chic pastry and catering outlets. The brand has a presence in 12 countries including the US, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Lenôtre opened a school for pastry chefs in 1971 in Plaisir, west of Paris. He marked historic events with new cakes, like the"Concorde" which he created when Air France flew its supersonic jet for the first time, and the "Schuss", which celebrated French skiier Jean-Claude Killy's Olympic success in 1968.

He won contracts to cater for high-profile events hosted in France, including the 1998 Football World Cup at which he fed 800,000 fans, and opened restaurants in glamorous locations like on the Champs -Elysées in Paris.

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