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Q&a Michel Bourger

September 22, 1996|Mary Melton

Why has Musso & Frank Grill, the Hollywood landmark opened in 1919, endured while Hollywood Boulevard itself has crumbled and occasionally collapsed around it? Looking for some answers, we caught up with Musso's peripatetic chef, Michel Bourger (from Paris, France, notes the menu helpfully), now in his 23rd year at the restaurant. Despite the language barrier, chef Bourger gamely unraveled the Musso mystique.

Q. Musso & Frank prints a new menu every day. Why?

A. Every day the menu changes. The soup changes every week.

Q. I never noticed that. Who came up with the menu?

A. The menu is established 75 years. In 1923, [chef] Monsieur Jean Rue came. I came in 1973.

Q. Ever get the urge to add something new?

A. No, it's too many items already.

Q. What's the most popular dish?

A. Monsieur Raymond Burr, nice, very wonderful person. I loved this guy. "Michel," he said to me in the kitchen, "I don't know how you make this kidney saute or this chicken a la king. Show me." I have no time, I tell him.

Q. Your dishes are famous for not changing.

A. My boss wants to change nothing. Everybody else tried to make nouvelle cuisine. It did not work.

Q. Where did you cook before Musso & Frank?

A. Before I was working in a hotel and for rich people, the top people all over the world--the Duchess of Windsor, Mr. Jack Benny. I make mistakes, I'm not perfect.

Q. Don't worry, nobody is.

A. If you love women, you pay the price. I do the best I can for this restaurant. Are you married?

Q. Um, engaged.

A. Oh, congratulations to you, madame. I'm an addict for work. (Laughs).

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