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It’s a question, no matter how trite and stupid it sounds, that you have to ask a 90-year-old who still shows up for work every day: What’s the secret to living a long, active life?

When I put the question to François Haeringer, the founding chef/owner of L’Auberge Chez François and the subject of this week’s Young & Hungry, he acts like I just asked him what style of wine he prefers.

“It’s all individual,” he says and stops abruptly. He’s done with the subject, I think.

“OK, then what is your individual secret to a long life?” I ask. I smile and laugh at my rephrase in hopes it doesn’t sound snotty. I’m not sure why I’m worried about offending the chef; he seems, on some level, immune to such a feeling.

“My feet are going, my arms are going, but my brain is still there,” he responds as if to another question. Then he gets to the heart of the question:

“Take good care of yourself,” he says. “Eat breakfast.”

I confess that breakfast is often a weak meal for me, typically coffee and a bagel or a pastry or something like that. I ask what his typical morning meal looks like.

The chef says he prefers fruit, oatmeal, and coffee, with perhaps a side of bread and marmalade. “Or a brioche,” he adds, “or whatever.” 

Haeringer also says he eats only two meals a day. Sometimes he enjoys a bowl of soup in between. I wonder if he always just ate twice a day.

“When I was younger, it was three meals a day,” he says. “But now I’m down to two.”

“You’ll see.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery