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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Auguste Escoffier and "Le Guide Culinaire"

Auguste Escoffier was a French chef. He practiced his craft in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. Who is this man you may ask? M. Escoffier was the father of modern culinary techniques. These include such things as the organization of labor in the kitchen (Brigade de Cuisine), menu structure and food service (Service a la Russe), food preparation, sanitation, nutrition and preservation. Wow!


He was also responsible for developing hotels such as the Ritz (Ritz Paris) and the Savoy (Savoy Hotel) into what they are today, classic stalwarts of luxury and quality.
His cookbook, "Le Guide Culinaire" (A Guide to Modern Cookery) was first published in 1903. It is to this day, one of the standards in many culinary institutes and restaurants. In fact, back in the day, when two chefs had an argument one would pull out "Le Guide" and say, "no you're wrong because it says so in this book!" End of argument.
 
Part of the reason I am blogging about him tonight was upon further research, I found a copy of this book online at openlibrary.org (Le Guide Culinaire). For those into food, it's a fun read.

As you peruse this treatise, I think that apart from it's historical significance, you will find these classic recipes interesting.

The book is divided into two parts. The first being fundamental things such as sauces and marinades. This guy was really into it as 70 pages were devoted to this topic. No wonder why some restaurants still employ a saucier (Saucier). It also describes describes basic preparations such as soups and garnishes.

The second part deals with preparation of meals with recipes. Everything from eggs to beverages to jams and fruit stews. Amazing, all 800 or so pages of this. In fact, over 5000 recipes.

Finally they have a number of sample menus. No, I cannot read French either. However, just looking at these is very impressive. Everything from a bon voyage menu to Christmas dinner, most with wine parings as well. It still kind of looks like a contemporary cook book. Interestingly, the a la carte menu was first used in his restaurants (a la carte). This has become the model over 100 years later for contemporary western menus. Quite cool.

These is even an index at the very back, not often seen in cookbooks until this was published.

I hope you have as much fun as I did perusing "Le Guide". I think I might even try a few of these recipes myself. Peach Melba (Peach Melba) anyone?
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