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A rememembrance of master chef Alain Lecomte.

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Annie Lecomte was often the gateway to her husband. Her beauty and lustrous accent, her warmth at the front of house conveyed a great deal about French master chef Alain Lecomte and his reasons for working so hard. The two tied their yoke to the restaurant Chez Max six years ago as an act of faith for the family's future. Their discerning, oft-returning clientele embraced the dream and the city's best French food, and the little house by the roadway seemed a fairy tale of purpose and talent, complete with flickering fireplace and aromatic air.

Alain Lecomte died last weekend at age 46 after staring down recurring bouts with cancer during the past several years. “He always looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I'm going to fight it every day,'” recalls his friend, baker Clement Denicourt. “His devotion for life, his devotion to his family, to his work — he was meticulous, very attentive, very elegant. He was an artist.”

Lecomte was known for his humility and also his exacting standards in the kitchen. He was an acclaimed young chef in Monaco and Paris, and spent the last 20 years of his life wearing his country's highest culinary distinction, the maitre cuisinier de France. “Yet he was never a show-off; he was not pompous,” Denicourt says. The chef's sole meuniere and veal in cognac cream were particular favorites, Denicourt says, “with real French flavors and presentation, always perfect, always 100 percent.”

“He was a great organizer, and nothing was too much for him,” says Paul Elbling, an elder statesman of local French chefs and a family friend. “He was a fantastic chef and he taught his staff well — he was so dedicated and he wanted them to continue.” The restaurant, named for and by the couple's son Maxime, will remain in business at 10622 Patterson Ave. “Alain had great pride in teaching his staff how to run the kitchen,” Denicourt says. “He told all of us to keep the restaurant open, that life is still going on.”

A memorial  service for Alain Lecomte will be  held Monday, Aug. 2, at 11 a.m. at St. Mary's Catholic Church on Gayton Road.

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