Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833)

  French cuisine was arguably born in the 17th century. The Surviving cookbooks before that point from France, England, and Italy show a remarkable uniformity, describing food heavily spiced, mainly with ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. The use of spices and the flavor profiles were virtually identical in all three countries.


  But in the 1650s and 1660s, French chefs and cookbook authors began to take a radical new approach to food that emphasized fresh ingredients and flavor for its own sake. Writers François Pierre de La Varenne  (in Le Cuisinier François, 1651) and Nicolas de Bonnefons (in Les Délices de la Campagne, 1654) extolled the virtues of vegetables prepared with simple seasonings that allowed their true flavors to shine. These authors also helped systematize culinary skills by identifying basic sauces and flavorings, such as roux, mayonnaise, and velouté.

  The next major advancement in French gastronomy came in the early 19th century, after the French Revolution. Antonin Carême became famous by cooking for royalty (including Napoleon and Britain's future king George IV) and the extremely wealthy (including the Rothschilds of Paris). Carême disliked the cuisine of the pre-revolutionary regime and aimed to create a culinary ethic befitting the new France. In his multi-volume book L'Art de la Cuisine Française aux XIX siècle (1833-1834), he advanced the notion that cuisine was both and art and a science. The revolution also helped spur the development of restaurants, as the cooks of the deposed aristocracy looked for work. Carême Brought into French restaurant kitchens a new emphasis on sanitation and purity, but he also prized beautiful presentations, rich ingredients, and good service. His ideas quickly caught on in Parisian restaurants and the rest of France.

  Around the same time, lawyer and politician Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was developing the concept of gourmandise. In his book, Physiologie du Goût (1825), he explained that humans distinguish themselves from other animals by treating food not only as nourishment but also as art. This collection of recipes, essays, and stories about food instantly became a best seller (to the great envy of Caême). Unfortunately, Brillat-Savarin died of pneumonia two months after the book's publication. 

  A few decades later, building on Carême's developments, chef and author Georges Auguste Escoffier systematized French cooking in a way that had never been done before. His Le Guide Culinaire (1903) lists dishes according to their order of presentation and includes the first à la carte menu. Escoffier radically simplified food service by advocating the abandonment of elaborate garnishes and the use of seasonal ingredients. He also streamlined the organization of professional kitchens.

  Escoffier's friend Prosper Montagné, a chef in the kitchens of high-end European hotels such as The Ritz, helped disseminate Escoffier's views in his 1938 book Larousse Gastronomique. This encyclopedic tome, which remains in print to this day, contained 3,500 recipes, plus a wealth of information about culinary history, cooking techniques, ingredients, and more. It is considered one of the definitive works on classical French cuisine - a culinary style that held sway for roughly three decades after Escoffier's death in 1935. At the point, it was supplanted by Noubelle cuisine.

ref. Nathan Myhrvold,  Modernist Cuisine : The Art and Science of Cooking Vol. 1(The Cooking Lab, 2011).  p. 9

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