NOUVELLE CUISINE died March 22, 1981, at the annual meeting of the Maitres-Cuisiniers de France, after a long and painful illness. It was mourned by none. The contributions nouvell cuisine made to the world, said various members, was that it lightened French cooking. The lightness survives. But the fashion, it has been charged, destroyed originally, perpetrating the same menu in the mountains as in La Tour d'Argent. Regionally is now vying for the newly-empty throne.The new cuisine: cuisine moderne. With or without twinkling lights . . . During the wake, Jacques Blanc, of Washington's Le Provencal, was heard to say, "With nouvell cuisine, two things are large: plates and price. The rest is small." . . . What do French chefs consider the most important trend in French cuisine? Chefs being in charge of their own kitchens, of course. Chef-owners. Free rein . . . A look into the crystal champagne glass predicts a many-starred future for Gerard Vie of Les Trois Marches in Versailes. French food writers describe his tiny restaurant, just a few yards from the Chateau of Versailes, as a must, the next candidate for three stars. Nouvell cuisine? "No, no!" Vie recoils in horror. The chubby, 28-year-old chef calls his cooking "personal cuisine," and admits that a big part of his success is the gorgeous 18th-century interior of his house, one of the nicest in France. How will California wines go with cassoulet and 18th century? The French will be finding out, for Vie intends to introduce them . . . Other toques to watch: Henri Faugeron, Jacques Cagna, Pierre Orsi . . . Orsi, who worked in the United States before opening his Lyon restaurant, sees a big future for spinach leaves as wrappers on French dishes and puff pastry layered with seafoods and cooked to order. He is heavily into dessert souffles -- of passion fruit, almond and coconut -- because the new Thermix machine makes their production rapid-fire. Green peppercorns are finished, says Orsi . . . On French menus look for hot and cold dishes rather than hot or cold, and what doesn't combine hot and cold is likely to be lukewarm -- on purpose . . . Look for, in combination, raw vegetables and fish. See how many different ways beurre blanc can be flavored. And expect to taste lemon, lime and (still) raspberry vinegar everywhere. Sweet is out; bitter and acid are in . . . The worst threat of the nine-day tour: Le Camelia's Jean Delaveyne joked that his mushroom jam to accompany game just might work as mushroom yogurt . . . Bon Mots from the Big Me in the Kitchen: "They thought we walked around with a can opener around our waists," said Jacques Blanc, after he sumptuous banquet the Pierre Hotel served to 500 . . . When Paul Bocuse, Roger Verge and the brothers Troisgros made their first visit to the U.S., Patrick Terrail hosted them with dinner at Ma Maison catered by McDonald's. After all, he sniffed, "Bocuse is really a garbage eater at heart" . . . Bocuse, Verge and LeNotre managed to fit the following into the New York whirl: roller disco at the Roxy after Saturday night's banquet, a cooking demonstration at Tavern on the Green on Monday (where Verge, when complimented on his delicious eggs, retorted that it was not how they tasted, but how they looked for the news photographer that was important), lunch at the just-opened Maurive dining room in the French-run Parker Meridian Hotel, where pal Alain Senderens of Paris' L'Archestrate is consulting chef. . . . Like dust getting into an oyster and emerging as a pearl, Voyage Mumm will probably make major changes, at least in decor, in French restaurants for the next 25 years, said restaurateur-consultant-author, George Lang . . . Culinary inspirations? Golden cavair, from whitefish, served by those same Frenchmen who turn up their noses at lumpfish caviar. Beef and salt -- both of which health-conscious Americans are shunning -- as in Tavern on the Green's beef roasted in salt and the French Embassy's raw beef canapes sprinkled with coarse salt. Oysters with spinach. Maurice Cazalis of Henri IV in Chartres plans to vary it with mushrooms instead of spinach . . . Expect to see more of Cazalis, who made a deal with L'Auberge Chez Francois' Franois Haeringer to come and cook in Great Falls for a week next winter . . . Least likely to be copied: haricots en gelee (jelly beans) . . . Don't bother looking for women in the Association. Andre Surmain of Le Relais a Mougins, estimates that 27,000 of France's 35,000 restaurants are owned by women, but none of the big ones, none of the professional ones. M. Vrinat, retired owner of Tailevent, patiently explained the problem, "I have 15 chefs in the kitchen. How can you put a woman with 15 chefs?" . . . What could one ask after that, except, "How's business?" Vrinat unfolded the glasses from his pocket and pulled out a small black book. Here's how it breaks down: Average check, 291 f. Food accounts for 63.47 percent, mineral water and coffee 3 percent, bar 8 percent, wine 26 percent. Are you sorry we asked? . . . Unofficial awards of the visit: Best idea for kitchen equipment -- by Jacques Blanc, an instant tableside sorbet-making machine. Young French chefs in America most talked about: Francis Leyrle of the French Embassy and Michel Fitoussi of the Palace. Most missed on the tour: Alain Chapel, Georges Blanc, the Haeberlin brothers and the Troigros brothers. Foods the chefs most wanted to taste: prime rib and t-bone steak. Proudest moment: Paul Prud'homme hearing that Bocuse thought the New Orleans food the best of the Tavern on the Green banquet: "That's like Shakespeare reappearing and telling you your writing is super." Least tactiful: chef at Tavern on the Green watching this reporter and commenting, "That girl is eating so much. How can a girl eat so much?" How can one merely nibble from history?