Chefs & Other Historical Figures
François Pierre (de) La Varenne (1618 – Dijon 1678)
La Varenne was the author of Le cuisinier françois (1651), the founding text of authentically French cuisine. La Varenne broke with the Italian traditions that had revolutionized medieval French cookery in the 16th century. La Varenne was the foremost member of a group of French chefs, writing for a professional audience, who codified French cuisine for the age of Louis XIV. The others were Nicholas de Bonnefons, Le jardinier François (1651) and Les Délices de la Campagne (1654) and François Massialot, Le Cuisinier royal et bourgois, (1691), which was still being edited and modernized in the mid-18th century.
La Varenne's work was the first to set down in writing the considerable culinary innovations achieved in France in the seventeenth century, while codifying food preparation in a systematic manner, according to rules and principals. He introduced the first bisque and Béchamel sauce. He replaced crumbled bread with roux as the base for sauces, and lard with butter. Here one finds the first usage of the terms bouquet garni, fonds de cuisine (stocks) and reductions, and the use of egg-whites for clarification. It also contains the earliest recipe in print for mille-feuille. The cooking of vegetables is addressed, an unusual departure. In a fragrant sauce for asparagus, the reader may detect an early sauce hollandaise:
The very first restaurant in the world was opened in Paris in 1765. A tavern keeper, Monsieur Boulanger, served a single dish -- sheep’s feet simmered in a white sauce.
Boulanger's business was different from other food businesses, like cafes and inns, because Boulanger's business was centered on food, not alcohol (like taverns) or coffee and tea (like cafes). Customers came to Boulanger's establishment primarily to eat, and this was a novelty in the late 18th Century, where the population ate their meals at home or, if they were away from home overnight on business, at an inn.
Boulanger claimed that his dish restored one's health, i.e., that it was a restorative. In French, the word restorative is restaurant. A local food guild (a union monopoly) sued Boulanger in court for infringing on its monopoly on the sale of cooked foods, but Boulanger won and was allowed to continue. This victory led to the rapid spread of these new restaurants across France.
Brillat-Savarin, Jean Anthelme : born 1 April 1755, died 2 Feb 1826
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was born in Belley on April 1, 1755, and died in Saint-Denis February 2, 1826. He was born Anthelme Brillat but to obtain an inheritance from an aunt, he was forced to take her name as well.
He studied Law in Dijon, followed by basic chemistry and medicine. In 1789 as a young solicitor he was the elected deputy to the National Assembly. After being forced into exile, he left France for Switzerland and eventually the USA. He lived for three years in the United States, supporting himself as a violinist with the John Street Theatre and by teaching French. He returned to France and his legal career in 1796/7 after obtaining permission to do so.
The author of La Physiologie du gout, which was released on December 8, 1825, it was a treatise on the fine art of gastronomy. Published in English as The Physiology of Taste (1825), it was the first work to treat dining as a form of art, and gastronomy as "the intelligent knowledge of whatever concerns man's nourishment." The book is still great reading with his excessive theoroms and aphorisms, not only was he a ‘gourmet scientist’, but he also held a great sense of wit.
Savarin was determined to turn the culinary art a true science, he pulled everything apart and studied it and applied all the sciences to find out the cause and effect. A great defender of greed and a man consumed with the love of food, he died in Paris two months after the release of his book. He contracted a cold at a Mass, that was held to celebrate the memory of Louis XVI .
Marie Antoine Careme (1784-1833)
Known as the "king of cooks, and the cook of kings", Marie-Antoine Careme was born into a family of 25 children. After being abandoned by his father at age 12, Careme began an apprenticeship with a pastry chef that set his course in culinary history.
Careme was a relentless worker who learned his trade quickly. He especially excelled at pastries, but also was a fine cook. He mastered the art of "cold" cuisine with innovations in preserving the appearance and taste of the dishes. Above all he is credited for taking cooking out of the middle ages and into the modern world of that time.
Careme, who was illiterate when abandoned by his father, became a compulsive writer. He was the author of numerous books on cooking, and also illustrated his own works as well. In addition, Careme was knowledgeable in architecture and wrote two books on the subject.
Careme's resume was impressive having cooked for Czar Alexander I of Russia, Baron de Rothchild of Paris, and King George IV in London. He was paid well and only worked if the opportunity suited him. Careme elevated cooking to an art and brought respect to the profession that was sorely needed.
Although he died quit young, at age 49, Careme's contribution to the cooking field was legendary. A true master of the kitchen, he is still revered today as one of the true geniuses of the culinary world.
Auguste Escoffier 1846 - 1935
A French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He is a near-legendary figure among chefs and gourmets, and was one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine. Much of Escoffier's technique was based on that of Antoine Carême, one of the codifiers of French Haute cuisine, but Escoffier's achievement was to simplify and modernize Carême's elaborate and ornate style.
Alongside the recipes he recorded and invented, another of Escoffier's contributions to cooking was to elevate it to the status of a respected profession, and to introduce discipline and sobriety where before there had been disorder and drunkenness. He organized his kitchens by the brigade system, with each section run by a chef de partie. He also replaced the practice of service à la française (serving all dishes at once) with service à la russe (serving each dish in the order printed on the menu).
In 1898 Escoffier and Ritz opened the Hôtel Ritz in Paris. The Carlton in London followed in 1899, where Escoffier first introduced the practice of the à la carte menu.
Fernand Point (1897 – 1955)
A French restaurateur and considered to be the father of modern French cuisine.
From his restaurant "La Pyramide" in Vienne, an out-of-the-way town south of Lyon, he gained three Michelin stars and trained a generation of French master chefs: Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, Louis Outhier, Georges Perrier and Jean and Pierre, the Brothers Troisgros.
The restaurant was founded shortly after World War I. From its kitchen came the modern lightly-thickened sauces, baby vegetables and other aspects of nouvelle cuisine. During the regime of Vichy France, Point served refugees fleeing the German invasion. When German officers began patronizing his establishment, he stopped serving dinner. When they demanded tables for lunch, he closed his restaurant altogether.
His book Ma Gastronomie contains refined techniques rather than traditional full recipes.
In 1933, when the Michelin Guide first began to rank French restaurants in Paris and the provinces with its system of one, two and three stars, La Pyramide fell into the top three stars category. He insisted that his cooks begin each day with a naked kitchen and start all over again. Paul Bocuse, Point's favorite apprentice, remembered the great man doing his daily marketing, selecting his fish, flesh and fowl to be delivered to the cooks waiting in the kitchen.
Paul Bocuse (1926-2018) was recognized by the Culinary Institute of America as the greatest chef of the century. He was widely credited with being one of the first chefs to emerge from the kitchen and to enter public life. In this role he traveled extensively promoting French cuisine, starting restaurants and culinary institutions, and participating in other business ventures.
Bocuse was one of the most prominent chefs associated with the nouvelle cuisine movement (the term was first described in 1972), which was less rigid than the traditional haute cuisine, and stressed the importance of fresh ingredients of the highest quality. In 1975, he created the world famous soupe aux truffes (truffle soup) for a presidential dinner at the Elysée Palace. Since then, the soup has been served in Bocuse's restaurant near Lyon as Soupe V.G.E., V.G.E being the initials of former president of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
The Bocuse d'Or (the Concours mondial de la cuisine, World Cooking Contest) is a biennial world chef championship. Named for the chef Paul Bocuse, the event takes place during two days near the end of January in Lyon, France at the SIRHA International Hotel, Catering and Food Trade Exhibition, and is one of the world's most prestigious cooking competitions.
James Andrew Beard (May 5, 1903 – January 21, 1985)
An American chef and food writer. James Beard is recognized by many as the father of American gastronomy. Throughout his life, he pursued and advocated the highest standards, and served as a mentor to emerging talents in the field of the culinary arts.
James Beard was a central figure in the story of the establishment of an American food identity. James Beard was an eccentric personality who brought French cooking to the American middle and upper classes in the 1950s. Many consider him the father of American style cooking. His legacy lives on in his twenty books, numerous writings, his own foundation, and his foundation's annual Beard awards in various culinary genres