On Cooking: Auguste Escoffier

Escoffier lived from 1846-1935. His culinary career began when he was just 13. He started out in his Uncle’s restaurant and continued on until he died at age 88. He was called the “emperor of the worlds kitchens.” He was best known for defining French cuisine and dining during La Belle Epoque also known as the “gay nineties.”

EscoffierUnlike Careme, Escoffier never worked for the aristocrats in their home. He had the chance to exhibit his culinary skills in the dining rooms of fine hotels in Europe. The hotels included the Place Vendome in Paris and the Savoy and Carlton hotels in London.

He did a lot to enhance Grande Cuisine which was defined as such by Careme. He credited Careme with providing the foundation for the great French cooking. Escoffier simplified the profussion of flavors, dishes and garnishes typifying Careme’s work. He also streamlined some of Caremes overly elaborate and fussy procedures and classifications. For an example he reduced Careme’s system of classifying sauces into the five sauces still recognized today. He aimed for the perfect balance of a few superb ingredients and sought simplicity. Some people consider his refinement of grande cuisine to have been so radical as to credit him with the development of  new cuisine referred to as cuisine classique (classic or classical cuisine).

His writings include Le Livre des menus (1912), which discussed the principles of a well-planned meal. His most important contribution is a culinary treatise intended for the professional chef titled Le Guide Culinaire (1903). It is still in use today and is still in use today and is an astounding collection of more than 5000 classic cuisine recipes and garnishes. He emphasizes the mastery of techniques, the thorough understanding of cooking principles and the appreciation of ingredients, attributes he considered to be building blocks professional chefs should use to create great dishes.

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