Brazier’s mother died when she was just 10, and she took a job at a neighbouring farm to help provide for her family. But in 1914, the 19-year-old Brazier became pregnant out of wedlock and her father kicked her out, as it was considered scandalous in those times. To make ends meet, Brazier got a housekeeping job with a wealthy Lyonnaise family, the Milliats, placing her son, Gaston, in a pensionnat (boarding school). She travelled with the family each year as they spent winters in Cannes in southern France, and eventually took on the additional role of cook once the family decided to live there year-round. With no cookbooks to consult, she would ask merchants or local hotel staff for recipes and recreate them from memory.
After World War One, Brazier, now a more seasoned cook, started working in the kitchen of Mère Filloux, a restaurant in Lyon’s Brotteaux neighbourhood with an all-female staff, which was common at the time. Typically, bouchons (traditional restaurants) were run by women called “Lyonnaise mothers”, who served offal and offcuts of meat to hungry businessmen and silk workers.
By 1922, Brazier had saved enough money working at Mère Filloux and other restaurants to buy a grocery shop, which she turned into a small restaurant. There, she began making a name for herself preparing dishes like crayfish in mayonnaise, roast pigeon and country-style peas and carrots. She later moved to a larger restaurant on Rue Royale in central Lyon, which is the site of the present-day La Mère Brazier. In 1928 she opened a second restaurant, also called La Mère Brazier, with a farm and cookery school, in the hills 19km outside Lyon at Col de la Luère.
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