A spotlight on France's culinary giants: Auguste Escoffier

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th January 2015
As the French Michelin Guide 2015 comes out next week we're looking at those French chefs that shaped the cuisine as we know it today. From Auguste Escoffier to Paul Bocuse we're featuring those culinary giants who are cited as influences and pioneers of their era. First up is Auguste Escoffier. Georges Auguste Escoffier (28 October 1846 – 12 February 1935) was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He was one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine. Known as the “the king of chefs and the chef of kings”, at the age of thirteen he started an apprenticeship at his uncle's restaurant, Le Restaurant Français, in Nice. Hotel National in LucerneEscoffier then went on to another apprenticeship in 1865 moving to the Le Petit Moulin Rouge restaurant in Paris. He stayed there until the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, when he became an army chef. His army experience led him to study the technique of canning food. During the summers, Escoffier ran the kitchen of the Hotel National in Lucerne, where he met César Ritz. The two men formed a partnership and in 1890 accepted an invitation from Richard D'Oyly Carte to transfer to his new Savoy Hotel in London, together with the third member of their team, the maître d'hôtel, Louis Echenard. In 1899 he moved to the Carlton Hotel. By 1913 Escoffier met Kaiser Wilhelm II on board the SS Imperator. The culinary experience on board the Imperator was overseen by Ritz-Carlton, and the restaurant itself was a reproduction of Escoffier's Carlton Restaurant in London. Escoffier was charged with supervising the kitchens on board the Imperator during the Kaiser's visit to France. The Kaiser was so impressed that he insisted on meeting Escoffier after breakfast the next day, where, as legend has it, he told Escoffier, "I am the Emperor of Germany, but you are the Emperor of Chefs."World Association of Chefs Societies After Ritz gradually retired in 1906, Escoffier was left as the figurehead of the Carlton until his own retirement in 1920. He continued to run the kitchens through World War I, during which time his younger son was killed in active service. In 1928 he helped create the "World Association of Chefs Societies" and became its first president. In recognition of his services to the prestige of French cooking abroad, he was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1920 and made an officer of the order in 1928. Auguste_Escoffier_bookHis technique was based on Marie-Antoine Carême’s one of the codifiers of French haute cuisine, but Escoffier's achievement was to simplify and modernize Carême's elaborate and ornate style. Escoffier profoundly simplified food service by advocating the use of seasonal ingredients and the abandonment of elaborate garnishes, he also streamlined the organization of professional kitchens. He was one of the earliest chefs to have a genuine interest in preserving the nutritional value of the foods he prepared and served. Escoffier also had an expertise in food science and was a pioneer in food preservation and in developing sauces that could be bottled. He promoted the belief that food service professionals at all levels should be dedicated to always improving their skills and general knowledge through education. He wrote many articles and books on cookery, his most famous pieces being Le Guide Culinaire and A Guide to Modern Cookery. By Hollie Bligh The Michelin Guide France comes out on the 2nd February, currently holding 27 three stars it's anyone's guess if they are to make this 28.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th January 2015

A spotlight on France's culinary giants: Auguste Escoffier