ANDRE Chavagnon, who has died aged 85, was a multi-award-winning chef whose La Sorbonne restaurant was visited by stars such as Sir Paul McCartney and Princess Diana.

Mr Chavagnon's restaurant in High Street, Oxford, was a regular in the Michelin Guide in the 1960s and 70s and was frequented by the city and country's biggest names.

He also hired Raymond Blanc as a waiter and trained him to be chef, along with fellow French chef Michel Sadones, who now runs The Old Bookbinders in Jericho.

Andre Chavagnon was born on May 22, 1932, in Roanne, eastern France, to parents Joseph and Antoinette, who owned a delicatessen.

He grew up in the area and did well at school passing his diploma – equivalent to GCSEs – at the age of 14.

His father wanted him to stay in school for two more years after showing such promise, but he had his heart set on becoming a chef.

After venturing to a number of patisseries and hotels in the region seeking an apprenticeship he was finally given a position at the Grand Hotel in Roanne.

He moved on after three years of climbing the ladder at the hotel and gained more experience, first in another hotel in Vichy, then in kitchens on national service and in the palatial surroundings of the Grand Cannes Hotel Martinez where he stayed for three years.

In 1956 one of his friends won a contract to work in Britain, but was unable to go, so Mr Chavagnon took up the offer instead.

A short stint at The Selsdon Hotel in Surrey saw him introduced to frozen vegetables, previously alien to him, and his first wife Gloria Newbold, who he married at the start of 1960s.

The couple returned to Roanne and had two children, Andre – who also became a chef – and Antoine, but Mr Chavagnon was fixated with the idea of owning a restaurant and felt his best chance of doing so would be in Britain.

The family moved to London in 1962 and while working as a freelance chef he woke up with 'an illumination' telling him to go to Oxford.

Wasting no time, he drove to Oxford and found a vacant High Street premises and opened up La Sorbonne in 1966.

Having sold his car and some of his possessions to afford the lease he feared a quiet opening week would make him bankrupt.

But more than 50 customers queued up on its opening night and before long it was winning award after award, from the AA, the RAC, the Master Chefs of Great Britain and a rosette from the Michelin Guide.

The famous faces of the era, including Sir Paul McCartney, Princess Anne and Edward Heath all dined at the restaurant in its heyday.

He opened a second restaurant – the Bleu, Blanc, Rouge – in 1969, a slightly down-market version of his first and one which also proved popular.

But the following decade La Sorbonne was dropped from the Michelin Guide and Mr Chavagnon, who had split from his wife, admitted going through a personal crisis.

By the late 1970s he had met Susan Kimbrey – they married in 2008 after being together for more than 30 years – and the couple had a daughter, Eliane.

Raymond Blanc, who he hired as a waiter and trained to be a chef, left the restaurant and opened Les Quat' Saisons in Banbury Road.

Mr Blanc's restaurant suddenly began winning the awards and recognition previously bestowed on Mr Chavagnon and a bitter feud ensued, which resulted in the latter paying court costs after a series of abusive phone calls in 1982.

But the pair buried the hatchet and in 1986 La Sorbonne was put back on the map after Princess Diana dropped into the restaurant while in Oxford for her brother Charles' graduation.

It eventually closed in 1992 but he opened Ma Cuisine, in Cowley Road, the following year, which he lived above with Susan.

It was here he taught Michel Sadones – currently landlord of The Old Bookbinders – before retiring in 1998.

A talented petanque player, he won the British Championships twice and represented Britain at the World Championships.

The couple moved to Cumnor and he enjoyed his retirement spending time with children and grandchildren, playing golf and occasionally visiting France.

They married in Roanne in 2008 after Mr Chavagnon was diagnosed with dementia.

He died on August 14 in the French town and is survived by Susan, ex-wife Gloria, two sons; Andre and Antoine, a daughter, Eliane, and three grandchildren; Amelia, Melanie and Emma as well as two great-grandchildren Jade and Rose.