Have you ever wondered what is a saucier? Do you know what Georges Auguste Escoffier contributed to the culinary world? You are going to learn the answers to those questions and more on today’s episode.
Today is all about French food and French cooking and its unique history. At the end I’m going to wrap up my conversation about Michelin Stars and how they fit into the history of French cuisine. I think it is safe to say that there are few cultures as obsessed with their cuisine as France is with their food. It has shaped the culinary landscape around the world for centuries. Many of the biggest names in the culinary world have some background in classic French cuisine.
History of the French Kitchen
To understand the French kitchen, we need to understand the origin of the French restaurant. A popular theory for the origin of the French restaurant states that after the French revolution, gourmet chefs were looking for work after their employers lost their heads. It was shocking how often this story popped up as I was wading through the research. However, this has repeatedly been proven false.
The first true French restaurants opened decades before the revolution. In the 1760s and 1770s some enterprising individuals began to capitalize on a notion of enlightenment. You might not have royal blood, but you can show you are something other than a peasant by eating something delicate. Something other than brown bread and sausage.
These first restaurants were bullion shops. It bullion was delicate and full of nutrients. However, what set these shops apart wasn’t that they were serving bullion, it was how they were serving the bullion. They copied a successful model already adopted by cafes.
They would seat patrons at a small table and give them a menu. It didn’t take long for other items to begin popping up on the menu in addition to the bullion. Meat dishes, stews and wine were common. Restaurants to this point were taverns. The tavern keeper would serve a set meal at a set time. You had to be there at that time and eat what was served or you didn’t get fed. This new approach to dining was radically different. For the first time patrons had choice. They could select items from the menu that suited them. There was also greater flexibility with when the meal was going to be served. It was revolutionary for the French at this time and it only got better from there.
Georges Auguste Escoffier Reinvents the Wheel
In the late 1800s, Georges Auguste Escoffier came on the scene and transformed the French kitchen into what it is today. Escoffier made a name for himself working in some of the largest hotels throughout Europe. One of his direct contributions to the culinary world was his idea of the kitchen brigade.
The kitchen brigade broke up the workings of a kitchen into five separate stations. You had the grade manger that prepared all of the cold dishes. Next you had the entremettier who prepared starches and vegetables. The rotisseur who prepared roasts, grilled dishes and some fried items. The saucier prepared sauces and soups and the patissier prepared all pastry and desserts. Before this system caught on, one chef would cook a meal in the kitchen start to finish. What made this system innovative, was each of these components came together to prepare a portion of the meal. A dish that took 15 minutes to prepare could now be done in much less time.
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