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Dining With French Chef Auguste Escoffier

Dining With French Chef Auguste Escoffier

He popularized traditional French cooking methods and linked his name to the Ritz hotel, but who has a sweet tooth knows him for his peach dessert.

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Born to a modest family, he left school at thirteen to work in his uncle’s trattoria in Nice as a dishwasher and assistant cook. It didn’t take him long to realize that he had a true passion for gastronomy and, driven by the desire to improve, he left his uncle and went to work in a variety of famous hotels and restaurants - including the Petit Moulin Rouge in Paris.

After taking a break to serve in the war - he was an army cook under the empire of Napoleone III - he opened his own restaurant in 1879, which soon gained worldwide acclaim. Curiously, his career as a French chef was primarily carried out in England, after meeting Cesare Ritz.

Escoffier believed that the “grandeur” of French cuisine came from the sauces, and he was skilled in understanding the changing rhythms of modern life necessitated a quicker service and food that wasn’t too ornamental. His vision of gastronomy was that it should be scientific, methodic and practiced with extreme simplicity - putting the emphasis on flavor and nutrition, lightness and ease of digestion. His menus weren’t just a list of dishes, but a harmonious grouping of foods that created an “orchestrated delicacy”.

With his admirable talent for organization, Escoffier also helped rationalize the way kitchen work was divided among the crew, restructuring the methods so as to render them as fast and seamless as possible; his way of delegating work was used in the world’s grand hotels until the 1960s. He also had a very fertile literary life, collaborating with many magazines and publishing numerous books like Le Guide Culinarie and Le Livre de Menus.

Auguste Escoffier inventend in 1892 or 1893 a world-famous dessert: the Peach Melba (here is the recipe), created by French chef while he was at the London's Savoy Hotel, to honour the Australian soprano Nellie Melba performing in Wagner's opera Lohengrin at Covent GardenThe Duke of Orléans gave a dinner party to celebrate her triumph and for the occasion Escoffier created the new dessert, that combines two popular summer fruits: peaches and raspberry sauce accompanying vanilla ice cream. To display it, he used an ice sculpture of a swan, which is featured in the opera: the swan carried peaches which rested on a bed of vanilla ice cream and which were topped with spun sugar.

This story is taken from the book 'Tacuinum De' Eccellentissimi', ali&no editore

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