For those who’d like to learn more about the life and history of François Vatel, there’s unfortunately a lack of good books in English. The most important books on the era and the legendary chef are in French and haven’t been translated.
We highly recommend, however, Vatel Ou La Naissance De La Gastronomie: Recettes Du Grand Siecle, a volume by Dominique Michelle, a specialist in the cuisine of the 17th and 18th Centuries and an author who also served as a consultant to director Roland Joffé for his film, Vatel.
Divided into three parts, the book reveals the social and professional contexts that lead to Vatel’s dramatic suicide: while difficult to fully comprehend for the modern reader, Michelle manages to convey the delicate mechanisms and fragile relationships in France’s Royal Court. The constant pressure was too much for a perfectionist and demanding professional like Vatel to take. The second and third parts of the book are dedicated to the actual food from the era. She analyzes French cuisine during Vatel’s lifetime – a historical period that saw the establishment of modern gastronomy, and she reconstructs typical menus from the time, with the help of the professional chef and historian, Patrick Rambourg.
Vatel Ou La Naissance De La Gastronomie: Recettes Du Grand Siecle Written by Dominique Michelle Published by Fayard