Born to parents who both worked as cooks in the northwest region of Eure, Lenotre opened his first pastry shop in Paris in 1957 in the well-heeled 16th arrondissement of the French capital.
Soon he attracted a loyal clientele with his mouth-watering array of mousses, macaroons and charlotte cakes and turned Lenôtre into a brand name synonymous with fine patisserie.
Lenotre broke from traditional French pastry-making by inventing lighter creations such as his trademark “Succes” (Success) cake made with nougat cream and macaroons.
Born in the Normandy town of Saint-Nicolas-du-Bosc, Lenôtre liked to say he was “reared on butter and creme fraiche” and recall that after hesitating between training as a carpenter and a pastry chef, he finally chose desserts.
Cuisine was in his blood: his father was a chef at a upscale Paris hotel and his mother a private cook for the household of the baron Pereire, a wealthy French banker. His grandmother, Eleonore, was among the first French woman chefs in the 1900′s. She was the private executive chef for the Baron Rothschild family at their residences in Paris and Bordeaux.
A cuisine professional who demanded the highest standards from his team, Lenôtre rejected mass production methods, even if 5,000 guests had to be served.
“French pastry-making taught me to be precise, to have discipline,” he once said in an interview. “If I see that things are sloppily done, I lose it.”
In 1960, he opened a luxury catering service that would lay the foundation for an international food empire, with Lenôtre boutiques now open in 12 countries including the United States, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
Lenôtre opened a pastry school in the Paris region in 1971 that welcomes some 3,000 chefs each year, and in 1976 took over Le Pre Catelan, a three-star restaurant and two other establishments.