French Cuisine

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History of
Classical French Cuisine

The Italian connection

The traditional birth year of Classical French Cuisine is 1533, when Catherine de Medici moved from Florence to Paris to become the child-bride of the future King, Henri II. She was so appalled by the qualities and manners of the French table that, as part of her marriage agreement, she was allowed to bring an entourage of chefs from her homeland, where fine cooking was an art form. In due course, the imported talent introduced the Parisian courtiers to the glories that would soon develop into Classical French Cuisine.

The French deserve the credit

In fairness to the French pride, it must be pointed out that good local cooking existed long before Catherine's arrival, as is partially substantiated by Taillevent's fourteenth century cookbook. Furthermore, Catherine merely precipitated and did not - as some food writers are fond of telling us - create Classic French Cuisine. If she had not done so, someone else would have performed the mission, because the time was right for the development of the latent French palate, farming skill, and kitchen expertise.

Pillars of gastronomy

The other most potent influences on Classical French Cuisine include:

La Varenne (1618-1678)

Chef. Wrote Le Cuisinier Francais.

Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)

Gourmet. Author of The Physiology of Taste.

Careme (1784-1833)

Architecture-oriented chef. He is probably the leading candidate for the title of "the father of classic French cooking".

Dubois (1818-1901)

Chef. He is best noted for creating the previously described Selle de Veau a la Prince Orloff, and for helping to establish in France the Russian-style table service, where the diner receives the food already served on his plate, as opposed to serving himself from a selection of dishes.

Escoffier (1847-1935)

Chef. He helped simplify and put the final touches on the codification of haute cuisine in his cookbook, Le Guide Culinaire.

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