Chef Georges Perrier, saved by a neighbor, recovering after heart surgery

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Georges Perrier in the Le Bec-Fin kitchen in Erika Frankel’s “King Georges” documentary.

The celebrated chef Georges Perrier was recovering from triple-bypass surgery at a Philadelphia hospital Wednesday, two days after he collapsed outside of his apartment building and was revived by a fast-thinking neighbor — a physician walking her dog.

Perrier’s daughter, Genevieve, said her father, 74, was getting out of a friend’s car in Center City about 3:30 p.m. Monday when he fell, landing on his back.

Nancy Petersmeyer, a psychiatrist, was walking out of the building with her poodle puppy Tulip when she said she noticed a small crowd gathered around Perrier. Rushing over to help, she found that Perrier was gray, his eyes glassy. She checked for a pulse. There was none.

She started chest compression, but “I could feel whatever life he had slipping away,” Petersmeyer said Wednesday.

After five or six minutes of chest compression, Petersmeyer said, she noticed that color had begun to return and she found a pulse.

When medics arrived, Perrier was awake, though disoriented. He wanted to go home, but was persuaded to go to the hospital.

Several severely blocked arteries were discovered, said his daughter. He spent  Tuesday being prepped for surgery and receiving visitors, including chefs Chip Roman and Nicholas Elmi, whom Perrier mentored at Le Bec-Fin, the temple to haute French gastronomie that put Philadelphia on the culinary map.

Petersmeyer, 64, knew Perrier from the building and recalls having dined about 20 years ago at Le Bec-Fin, which closed in 2013. Genevieve Perrier told Petersmeyer that her father had told her that he would like to take her to dinner as thanks.

“The worst thing someone can do [in a similar situation] is to stand by helplessly,” Petersmeyer said. “I was grateful that I knew what to do.”

Perrier, a native of Lyon, France, arrived in Philadelphia in 1967 to cook at La Panetière, then one of the few posh restaurants in Center City. Three years later, Perrier opened Le Bec-Fin at 1312 Spruce St., now the site of Vetri Cucina, before moving the restaurant in 1983 to 1523 Walnut St. He left the restaurant in 2012, a year before its closing.

Perrier, who received the prestigious Legion d’Honneur in 2009, has spent the last few years consulting with his proteges. Perrier also was the subject of King Georges, an award-winning 2015 documentary that followed him through the final years of Le Bec-Fin.

Camera icon DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Chef Georges Perrier cooking at Le Bec-Fin in 2011.