The History of Cuisine

Did you know that the first cookbook was written in the 4th century BC? It was indeed. And, in fact, the author – Marcus Gavius Apicius – wasn’t even a chef. He was a Roman gourmand who translated his passion for food into a book entitled Re de Coquinaria.

From that point on, French chefs began the process of codifying and formalizing what had been done for centuries. Luminaries such as Taillevent, de la Varenne, Massialot, Marin, Menon, Beauvilliers, Dubois, Gouffe each contributed to developing what is known as French cuisine and serves as the basis for most of the cooking we do in the Western world.

The work of Antonin Careme (1784-1833), author of L’Art de la Cuisine Francaise, was a particularly important turning point. He is known as the “Architect of Cuisine” for the impressive work he did compiling and detailing recipes, menus and garnishes.

The culmination of all this knowledge was then presented by Escoffier (1846 – 1935) who extracted the cooking techniques being used and created a quick reference for all cooks in his famous Le Guide Culinaire. He is truly worshipped as the father of French cuisine.

Over time, we continue to see the evolution of cuisine. In the 1970’s, Nouvelle Cuisine – a collaboration between the French and Japanese focused on the perfection in the minute detail of the plate that pleases the eye as much as the palate – transformed how we eat.

More recently, in the 21st century, chefs such as Herve This & Pierre Gagnaire brought the element of science to the kitchen. Avant-garde geniuses such as Ferran Adria (El Bulli in Spain) and Grant Achatz (Alinea in Chicago) have transformed eating into a true art form.

And the evolution continues as many of today’s chefs focus on the locavore/farm-to-table movement. Inspired by leaders like Alice Waters and others, American chefs are using traditional, yet simple, cooking techniques to elevate our appreciation for the finest natural ingredients available.

The History of Cuisine has also impacted how modern kitchens are structured. Enthused by the structure and discipline of the military, Escoffier is credited with creating what is known as the Kitchen Brigade system. Within this hierarchical system, which is still used in today’s kitchens, each member of the team plays a very specific role:

Corporate Executive Chef Adviser & Supervisor responsible for financial and culinary direction of multiple   restaurants
Executive Chef – Directeur de Cuisine Manager/organizer who is financially accountable to the owner
Kitchen Chef – Chef de Cuisine or Gros Bonnet Responsible for the management of the kitchen
Deputy Kitchen Chef – Sous Chef #2 to Chef de Cuisine – intermediary between the Chef and the rest of the staff
Announcer/Expediter   – Aboyeur Bridge between the front and the kitchen
Station Chef – Chef de Partie Manager of a given cooking station
Sauce Maker – Saucier Prepare stocks and sauces
Spare Hand or Roundsman – Tournant Master of all stations
Pantry Supervisor – Garde Manger Responsible for all cold preparations
Butcher – Boucher Cuts meats
Charcutier Responsible for all pork
Roast Cook – Rotisseur Roasts and broils
Grill Cook – Grillardin Prepares grilled foods and hot emulsion sauces like hollandaise & béarnaise
Fry Cook – Friturier Fries foods
Fish Cook – Poissonier Prepares all seafood and its sauces
Entrée and Hot Appetizer Cook – Entremetier Prepares soups, veg, egg dishes and garnish
Junior Cooks – Commis Takes care of the tools of a particular station
Apprentice – Apprenti Spends 3 years working through all the stations
Dishwasher – Plongeur Washes dishes
Intern – Stagiaire Assists with prep work
Pastry Cook – Patissier Makes desserts
Baker – Boulanger Bakes bread

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