Table of contents
Historical Background & Development of Haute Cuisine
Marie-Antonin Car ême
Gastronomic Methods & The True Pioneer
Barbara Santich defined the meaning of gastronomy as follows:
“ Historically and etymologically, gastronomy relates to advice and guidance on what to eat and drink, where, when, in what manner, in which combinations. It can also be understood as an ‘art of living’, [... ], which enhance the pleasure and enjoyment of eating and drinking” (Santich, 2004:1)
Throughout the history of the 16th to 19th century, the art of living has changed majorly and simultaneously has the evolution of gastronomy (Santich, 2004). Different cultures and countries followed different approaches and a broad range of cuisines could be found throughout the world (Kiple and Ornelas, 1999). This research aims to review existing literature on the history, major establishments and the development of haute cuisine, which started a significant revolution in terms of gastronomic views (Trubek, 2000; Wheaton, 1996; Iomaire, 2009). Haute-Cuisine, or fine-dining, is based on great achievements of gastronomic figures, such as Marie-Antonin Carême and was redefined by known personalities, such as Auguste Escoffier (Kotschevar and Withrow, 2007; Kiple and Ornelas, 1999; Ferguson-Parkhurst, 2004; Wheaton, 1996; Iomaire, 2009; Page and Kingsford, 1971). The history of fine dining, which reaches back to aristocratic families in Italy, the beginnings in France and the acquainted way of conducting haute-cuisine are furthermore critically analysed on the basis of existing research (Mennell, 1995; Wheaton, 1996; Tannahill, 1995). Additionally, the importance of the methods implied by the key figures Carême and Escoffier are revised on the basis of translated historical literature such as “Le Guide Culinaire” (Escoffier, 1903) and literature concerning French cooking, such as “The Master Chefs: A History of Haute Cuisine” (Page and Kingsford, 1971) and “The Great Book of French Cuisine” (Pellaprat, 2003).
Nowadays, haute-cuisine is present in fine restaurants and hotels throughout the world and is generally based on both of the key figure’s achievements (Santich, 2004). The creativity, innovation and organizational processes established in the 19th century are to be evaluated as crucial for the modern gastronomic industry and is often referred to in recent journals (Balazs, 2001; Ottenbacher and Harrington, 2007; Rao, Monin and Durand, 2003; Svejenova, Mazza and Planellas, 2007). The literature review aims to discuss this aspect critically in its conclusion and draw critical parallels between the history, key figures, achievements, methods and the haute-cuisine we can experience nowadays.
Historical Background & Development of Haute Cuisine
Many believe that haute cuisine commenced in France, however fine dining was first established by wealthy Italian families such as the Medicis and Borgias in the middle ages, driven by great artistic innovators like Michelangelo and projecting the creativity aspect on their culinary feasts (Kotschevar and Withrow, 2007; Tannahill, 1995). Iomaire (2009), based on a review of Willan’s book “ Great Cooks and Their Recipes: From Taillevent to Escoffier” (1992), described that it was back then, based on the recipes of the outstanding cook Martino, that the Medicis first established civilized and outstanding gastronomic achievements (Mennell, 1995:69).
Some literature states that Catherine de Medici came to France in 1533, in order to marry the future regent Henry II, and brought 50 of her finest cooks, who established haute cuisine (Page and Kingsford, 1971: 73).
However, there is an argument in the literature that the Italian influence on haute cuisine is rather weak, given the fact that there is no trustworthy evidence provided for culinary Italian approaches of fine dining in the history of the 16th century (Mennell, 1995). This was only partially achieved by Bartolomeo Scappi in 1570 and his book “Opera dell'arte del cucinare” in Italy ( (Mennell, 1995: 69; Iomaire, 2009; Pitte and Gladding, 2002: 97).
Therefore there are sources, which state that the fairy-tale of Catherine de Medici, who was establishing haute cuisine in France in 1533 with a range of chefs from Italy, is rather a myth, as there is little Italian evidence in French haute cuisine (Wheaton, 1996).
Although Catherine did not establish haute cuisine in itself, she still proved a great amount of passion of bringing different factions, wealthy families and other personalities together throughout France and demonstrating them the way of fine dining, by using proper cutlery and feasting in a civilized way (Wheaton, 1996; Iomaire, 2009; Kiple and Ornelas, 1999; Kotschevar and Withrow, 2007).
It was only in 1651 that French classical, fine cuisine was established by Francois Pierre de la Varenne and his well-known book “Le Cuisinier Francois”, in which he proves a great amount of innovative technologies and fine methods on how to prepare meat, the use of roux and the making of a consommé (Pitte and Gladding, 2002; Mennell, 1995). In fact, La Varenne dedicated a whole chapter in the original book on page 53 on “La maniere d’accommoder & servir les viandes [...]”, meaning “the method of preparing & serving meats” (La Varenne, 1651: 53). Thus, under the sun king Louis XIV, haute cuisine and the art of civilized dining did belong to a good form (Balazs, 2001; Wheaton, 1996). Culinary delights were seen as luxurious and exquisite and were implemented by the French aristocracy (Iomaire, 2009; Kiple and Ornelas, 1999). However, this had an effect on the overall French national culture, which adopted the aristocratic way of feasting, as stated in the journal by Balazs (Balazs, 2001).
Iomaire described the thoughts of Flandrin in his PhD (Iomaire, 2009), who states in his book “Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to Presence” (1999) that there were complex changes taking place in the 17th and 18th century, regarding the use of spices, as many travellers complained about the spicy dishes that were served in the rest of Europe. Yet in France, garnishing such as basil and mint became popular and the popularity of vegetables and fruit grew rapidly. The vegetable consumption for the aforementioned period was visualized in a graph by Flandrin on page 405, retrieved from the PhD thesis of Iomaire (2009).
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Figure 1: The Rise of Vegetable Consumption (Flandrin and Montanari, 1999: 405)
The importance of fruit and vegetables increased and the proportion of meals with meat of any kind decreased. Furthermore in the 17th and 18th century, according to Flandrin, if meat was served for the wealthy families, it was the good cuts which came to the plate; whereas the lower classes had the bas morceaux (low-quality cuts) (Flandrin and Montanari, 1999). Additionally, the new world foods tea, coffee and chocolate gained attention and helped to improve the popularity of sweetness in the cuisine, as well as frozen desserts and cakes (Wheaton, 1996; Iomaire, 2009).