Marcel Carles, who may have been the first French chef in Columbus, died Tuesday at St. Francis Hospital.
Carles, 75, came to Columbus in 1961 when he was stationed at Fort Benning as a Ranger. A martial artist, he taught hand-to-hand combat for the U.S. Army.
After leaving the Army, he was hired as the executive chef at the Big Eddy Club.
“I met Marcel in mid-1962,” said Faye Carles, his widow. “It was love at first sight. I was living in LaGrange and working for the Social Security Administration. I promptly got a transfer to Columbus.”
She finally “snagged him” and they were married for 47 years.
Sam Wellborn, the retired CB&T president and member of the Georgia Department of Transportation board, saw Carles’ daughter, Cissy Giglio at Creatively Yours Tuesday afternoon, returning Halloween costumes.
“I asked if her father had worn that costume, and she said he had. And then she said he had died that morning,” Wellborn said.
“On Saturday, we had gone to Nancy and Wally Carlson’s Halloween party,” Faye Carles said. “Wally had turned 80, and we were there. We danced. He felt good. The whole weekend was perfect.”
She was Cleopatra and he was Marc Anthony.
Sunday morning, Carles woke up his wife and told her he needed help. She called 911.
“I thought I’ll bring him back home shortly,” she said.
It turned out she went home alone.
Wellborn knew Carles when he was the president of the Big Eddy Club and Carles was the chef and manager.
“He was excellent with French cuisine,” Wellborn said. “That was when the Big Eddy was known for its wonderful French cuisine. He was an interesting character. I thoroughly enjoyed knowing him for many, many years.”
Local foodie Gail Greenblatt took cooking lessons from Carles.
“It was always a pleasure to take cooking lessons from Marcel, because he was quintessentially French,” she said. “He taught in some homes of interested foodies, and was happy to demonstrate crepe making at various civic club meetings and other gatherings. His charm and appreciation of proper cooking techniques endeared him to hundreds of Columbus folks.”
Artist Geri Davis knew Carles when he was a chef, too.
“He was a wonderful, very creative chef,” Davis said. “He carried that creativity right from being a chef to being an artist.”
A member of the Joseph House Art Gallery, Carles’ work hangs on the gallery’s walls.
“We are going to miss him at the Joseph House,” Davis said. “The Joseph House won’t be the same without Marcel.”
Wellborn said one of Carles’ paintings hangs in his house.
“I loved him very much,” he said. “He will be missed in Columbus. He was part of this city and a wonderful ingredient. He added lots of flavor to our city.”
Carles was born in Paris, France, on Sept. 21, 1935.
Survivors other than his wife are his son, Marc Carles, of Rome, Ga.; daughter, Cissy Giglio, of Columbus; two sisters and a brother in France; three grandchildren, Lindsey Giglio, Will Giglio and Taylor Carles.
A celebration of his life will be held 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Vance-Brooks Funeral Home, 4048 Macon Road.
Faye Carles said her husband wanted to be cremated and the family will scatter his ashes at Panama City Beach.
“We loved the beach,” she said. “From the moment we met, we would go to the beach as often as we could. In fact, we had a trip planned. But ...”