How did restaurants begin? An insight into Gastronomy
“Whenever you eat somewhere and a few months later you remember what you had, that’s a great meal. That’s very important. If you don’t remember what you had, then something was wrong. You didn’t eat; you were fed.”-Andre Soltner, Lutece
During my five years in Cyprus I was senior lecturer and head of culinary arts at a well renowned culinary academy. My first year students were not well versed with much of European history, so before getting ahead with the actual course content, somewhat of a history lesson was in order
Introduction to Gastronomy and Culinary Theory LECTURE
Catch, forage, cultivate Initially, we ate what we could catch or forage. Then it was catch, forage or cultivate. Now it is what we can catch, cultivate, forage (not so common anymore) or fly in from around the world.
In the developmental stages from eating merely to survive, to becoming sophisticated consumers, there have been a range of significant stages
Gastro-geography and Gastro-history. Gastro-geography: The food available to our ancestors was determined by the type of terrain and the prevailing weather conditions in their locality. This controlled what would grow(wild or cultivated), or what could be caught or reared Gastro-history: This concerns food items, influences and techniques learned through trading with adjacent nations, and brought back by explorers traveling further afield. Migration of people has also been a major factor.
Greek Influence Within Europe, the advent of Greek civilization brought about much of what we know today about eating habits and ancient societies. The writings of Archestrate, Greek poet and gastronome (4th century BC), provides information about early Greek gastronomy, but very little has actually survived. Sicilian cooks were prized assets for many rich Greeks. The competition to deliver the best food for guests resulted in a move for feasts to be based on quality, rather than quantity.
The Romans also played a major part in the development of gastronomy. Apicius wrote about “the art of the table” and recorded recipes, processes and the dining habits of Imperial Rome.
Further gastronomic advances were made as the very rich competed with each other to serve the best dishes to guests. This process was enhanced by the Roman habit of bringing back foodstuffs and processes from conquered lands, adding them to their own culinary customs.
The Romans also had a gastronomic impact on conquered countries. Example Britain; garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, cabbages, peas, celery, turnips, radishes, asparagus, rabbits, possibly even chickens were introduced by the Romans.
Spanish and Portuguese explorers
The next significant stage is probably the influence that these explorers had by bringing back previously unknown foodstuffs to Europe. Potatoes, peppers, tomatoes etc are key ingredients in many modern European diets
French Revolution-how did restaurants begin? Another stage in the development of gastronomy, possibly a key one, was the French Revolution. The death of the aristocracy left many skilled chefs out of work with little prospect of ever again finding a fine household to practice their art in. The solution is that many of them opened eating houses –perhaps restaurants is too fine a word in their early stages -but it’s what they became.
Dining vs Eating
The advent of these restaurants brought dining, rather than eating, to the public in general to those that could afford it rather than it being the domain of the very rich.
Part of culture and heritage
The gastronomy of a region may rightly be considered to be part of the culture and heritage of that region, but just as culture grows and evolves, so does gastronomy
Movement of people In summary, the greatest impact upon the development of gastronomy has been the movement of people.
Whether that movement was for trade, for war, for tourism, or for economic migration. As the movement of people is unlikely to cease, so is the development of gastronomy unlikely to cease.
The founder of Haute cuisine
After the fall of Napoléon, Carême went to London for a time and served as chef de cuisine to the Prince Regent, later George IV. Returning to the continent he followed the invitation of Tsar Alexander I to come to St. Petersburg, where he lived so briefly he never prepared a meal for the Tsar before returning to Paris, where he was chef to banker James Mayer Rothschild.
He is remembered as the founder of the haute cuisine concept
Georges Auguste Escoffier
28 October 1846 – 12 February 1935) the French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He is a 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 Marie-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. In particular, he codified the recipes for the five mother sauces. Referred to by the French press as roi des cuisiniers et cuisinier des rois
(“king of chefs and chef of kings“ though this had also been previously said of Carême), Escoffier was France’s preeminent chef in the early part of the 20th century.
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 by introducing organized discipline to his kitchens.
Escoffier published Le Guide Culinaire, which is still used as a major reference work, both in the form of a cookbook and a textbook on cooking. Escoffier’s recipes, techniques and approaches to kitchen management remain highly influential today, and have been adopted by chefs and restaurants not only in France, but also throughout the world
In 1898, Escoffier left the Savoy. He was allegedly implicated in the disappearance of more than £3400 of wine and spirits, but this was never proven.
By this time, Ritz and his colleagues were already on the point of commercial independence, having established the Ritz Hotel Development Company, for which Escoffier set up the kitchens and recruited the chefs, first at the Paris Ritz (1898), and then at the new Carlton Hotel in London (1899), which soon drew much of the high-society clientele away from the Savoy. In addition to the haute cuisine offered at luncheon and dinner, tea at the Ritz became a fashionable institution in Paris, and later in London, though it caused Escoffier real distress: “How can one eat jam, cakes and pastries, and enjoy a dinner – the king of meals – an hour or two later? How can one appreciate the food, the cooking or the wines?”
Brigade de cuisine
(English: kitchen brigade) is a system of hierarchy found in restaurants and hotels employing extensive staff, commonly referred to as “kitchen staff” in English speaking countries.
This structured team system, developed by Escoffier, delegates responsibilities to different individuals who specialize in certain tasks.
END OF LECTURE
Yes I have changed!-who did it better?
Undeniably, French cuisine has lost some of its hegemonic power: there are simply too many interesting newcomers on the international scene of haute cuisine that outrank the current slew of French chefs. However, I believe that the continued success of French cuisine today is not negligible. For instance, accomplished American chef Thomas Keller, who has notoriously been awarded three star Michelin ratings in two of his restaurants in the United States, mainly serves French food and has named one of his most successful restaurants “The French Laundry”. It remains to be seen whether the prestige and allure of French gastronomy will endure. Who knows what revolutionary dish the new generation of French chefs might cook up?