WA's most decorated chef Alain Fabregues has announced his retirement and the sale of his iconic Mundaring restaurant, The Loose Box, after 34 years.
At an emotion-charged meeting of staff last night, Fabregues said he planned to spend more time at his Avon Valley truffle farm and his new restaurant, Bistro des Artistes in Subiaco.
"It's time to see what else I have in me. I don't want to die in my saucepans," the 64-year-old said.
Fans of Fabregues' classical French cookery will have about three months to enjoy his food before a sale of the restaurant and its adjoining five-star chalets is likely to be settled. The property goes on the market this weekend.
WA identities have been quick to heap acclaim on Fabregues and his wife and business partner Elizabeth Fabregues.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan yesterday praised the couple "for creating one of Perth's most famous restaurants".
Former WA Tourism Commission chairwoman and restaurateur Kate Lamont said The Loose Box "has been enormously influential".
"What a shock, it's the end of an era," Jackson's Restaurant owner-chef Neal Jackson said. "He's had a big impact."
Fabregues began cooking as a 15-year-old apprentice in Bordeaux and says 49 years standing behind the stoves has made his knees too weak to carry on.
"It's not the only reason, but my dicky knees made the decision easier," he said.
Mrs Fabregues said: "It was a tough decision to say farewell to it all. Some of our staff have been with us for more than 20 years."
In 1991 Fabregues was awarded cooking's highest order, the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the only chef outside France to be honoured with the MOF. Fabregues also has the rare distinction of being knighted by the French Government not once, but twice for his services to professional cookery, receiving the Chevalier du Merite Agricole from President Francois Mitterrand in 1994 and the Merite National from President Jaques Chirac in 2004.
The Loose Box was WA's destination restaurant for loved-up couples and nervous young men wanting to impress their girlfriends.
It has been the city's romantic dining room of choice over most of its 34 years and along the way it has won a wall full of awards and gongs for its classic French cuisine and impeccable, old-school service.
The road to Mundaring, and the fulfilment of a young couple's dream to own their own restaurant, was paved with a mixture of hard work and luck. Fabregues says one of the best decisions he and Elizabeth made was agreeing, in 1988, to allow one of their regular customers to become an investor and silent partner.
The investor was a rising legal star called David Malcolm. "Even when he became Chief Justice, he kept supporting us. We bought him out in 1994," Fabregues said.
Pretty good connections for a Frenchman who came to Australia in 1979 without prospects or a job, swapping the streets of Paris for a migrant camp in rural NSW.