humble chefs history from 1783 - 1833History
In the last article, there was a brief historical introduction of “Lucullus,” who was a great food lover. It was actually with the Roman occupation of lands in the east, that they had great access to new ingredients like spices, herbs and seeds. Many of these ingredients traveled through the Silk Road from the Far East to the Middle East and the Mediterranean sea, much like the cherry tree was brought by Lucullus to Europe. It was also the Romans who developed the first vineyards in the Rhône valley in France.
Therefore speaking some thousands of years ago, it was obviously the Roman and Egyptian Empires of that time in the West, who greatly benefited from the trading of spices, salt, sugar and other ingredients resulting in a well developed cuisine at an early age. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was mainly the monks who preserved the scriptures and teachings and passed it on to the next generations.
Culinary Evolution after the Middle Ages
(Translated from the book of “Vladimir Durussel,” - “Menu Study, Writing and Planning.”
It was at the end of the Middle Ages when the Turks invaded Constantinople. This forced the elite, teachers and knowledgeable people to flee to the West. Many found refuge in Italy where they lived a comparable lifestyle.
It was in 1533 with the marriage of Catherine de Médicis of Florence to Henri II of France, where Italian culinary art influence was felt very quickly in France, where at the time the cuisine was more regional.
It was also in that time where different professional organizations were formed. These were promoted under the name of “corporations” (associations). Therefore, there were the: rôtisseurs, charcutiers, sauciers; which sub – divided themselves into: maîtres (teachers) – cuisiniers (cooks), vinaigriers, moutardiers, bouchers, pâtissiers, confiseurs, etc.
It is interesting to know, that in 1563, Charles IX, son of Catherine de Médicis, forbade to serve meals of more than 3 services (courses) per meal. (At that time the first course alone could have been composed of ten dishes and two to three soups)
It was in 1579, when hotel owners were asked to write in large letters, their dishes and the price to be paid at the entrance of their establishment.
It was in the first half of the XVI century (16th) when the cuisine had a great evolution. . . the choice of vegetables increased, new spices where available and it was in this époque (period) also that pâtes had a strong appearance.
However it was only in the so called Grand Siècle (Great Century), where a very intense development happened in the French cuisine and one can say in the cuisines of all Royal Courts in Europe.
It had to do with the excessive appetite of Louis XIV (14th), and with that culinary arts at its time reached its perfection. The King had a passion for vegetables and that gave the “vergers” (vegetable gardeners) and “potager” (soup makers) free hand to plant and create new dishes. Soon the teaching reached the whole of Europe.
As earlier mentioned, in the time of Charles IX, son of Catherine de Médicis, professionals grouped themselves into corporations (associations). Whereas there were laws among the associations, that you could only produce certain ingredients or components which were part of a dish. Like the “Saucier” (sauce maker) was only allowed to make sauces, but not to grill or roast a chicken. This was the work of the rôtisseurs.
That was challenged by a certain Boulanger in 1765. He opened the first restaurant in the rue (street) des Poulies and had a complete kitchen brigade producing all the dishes.
In 1777 there were other restaurants called l’Almanach Dauphin. These were owned by the traiteurs, who however could only produce consommés (at the time called restaurants divins ou bouillons de Prince). As they were related with the corporation, they could not offer what Boulanger did, like: des pieds de mouton en sauce blanche (mouton shank in white sauce). Therefore the corporation of the traiteurs sued Boulanger. However, they lost the case in court and Boulanger was allowed to operate his restaurant.
Following the court decision, more and more restaurants opened in Paris and with that a great evolution happened in the culinary scene.
However a person I would like to write more in detail due to his great achievements and contribution to the evolution of food and the culinary profession, is nobody else then Antoinin – Marie – Carême, born 1783 and died 1833.
The biography of Antoine – Marie – Carême (written by the Swiss author Harry Schraemli, in his book “von Lucullus zu Escoffier)
Biography of Antoine – Marie – Carême
It was a cold and windy November night in the streets of Paris, and a young boy of about the age of nine tried to protect himself from the strong gusts of wind by staying as close as possible beside his father. A man, who in his appearance was clearly marked with frustration with society, the rulers and rich of his time and he had love for alcohol and his children!
The father, who was walking so fast that the boy could hardly catch up, stopped suddenly and placed his two hands on top of his son’s head as if he suddenly had an idea.
The father said, “Come my little Antoine!” Then his father walked with him in to a street lined with numerous “taverns” and chose one.
They entered the tavern. It was sticky and dirty and they found a place at an un-cleared table. From the bar counter, the loud voice of the fat female owner boomed and the father ordered food and wine. After a short while, she served the house specialty – “Noix de boeuf en surprise,” and with the food, Antoine got a glass of red wine which warmed him up and brought a light red color to his otherwise pale face.
The father looked at his son: the very sharp cut face of the boy and his energetic movements clearly showed that the boy was full of energy and has a temperament. Further, his broad forehead explained his intelligence. His father, a father of 18 children, believed that Antoine, the second to the eldest, was just like him and that was the reason why, he chose him that night to go out with him.
The father, a small house kitchen master (private household chef), did not earn enough to feed all of his children.
The father, uncertain, caressed the curly hair of Antoine and said: ”Listen to your father. . . Out in the wide world, it is very beautiful and you can live well. And for intelligent people there is always a place. Where we live in the “Rue Bac,” the dirty street, poverty and need, will always dominate. Hardly enough sunshine comes into the dark rooms of our house and just when the last of you gets fed, the first one is shouting for bread again. For idiots, just to live is good enough, however for intelligent people, my son, it is ****. Next June you will be ten years old and at ten you can be already your own man, if you want to be.”
Antoine looked at his father with surprise and tried to understand what his father was really trying to say.
As both stepped back out in the cold November night, the young boy felt, that there will be a change in his life! In a neighborhood unknown to him, the father suddenly stopped, he took the very fine boy and embraced and kissed him on the forehead, and with tears running down his cheeks, he said in a low voice: “Beloved young one, go out in to the world and forget your father and mother. . . forget were you came from. Go on your way and become a light in heaven for our country, how you can afford and teach the world. A great time comes close and the world seems to be fermenting, bad will sink into the ground, good will go to heaven. Antoine I leave you up to you and your own destiny. Live well.”
Before the boy could understand what was happening, he was alone in the streets of Paris. Alone in the streets of Paris, with tears in his eyes Antoine was faced with the thought of being on his own now, without home, mother and father and may have to sleep in the streets.
Suddenly a voice was calling his attention and as he went closer he saw a well-built man. After the man learned about the story of the heartless father, he invited Antoine to stay with him.
Antoine learned that his new foster father was a chef. From his home kitchen, he prepared meals and sold them to the neighborhood. The next day, work in the kitchen started and with that a career as a chef, no one made as recorded in history. Antoine loved the grey-haired and happy Gargotier, even though he was a very strict chef in the kitchen, a style of discipline and hard work, which was new to him.
Antoine stayed for 6 years with his foster father and at the age of 15 years, in the year 1798, he started an apprenticeship at the Confiserie de Bailly. That was were the true talent of Carême, very quickly showed and was further developed. In only 2 years, he was one of the most appreciated chefs of the Maison Bailly. However Carême did not sit back and celebrate his young achievements. He stepped further and with the support of the owner of the Maison Bailly, he made daily visits to the library and the Stahlstichkabinettes. Marie-Antoine Carême (his real name actually), focused on studying historical motives, which the owner of the Maison Bailly gave him the chance to make into “pièce montée” (center pieces).
So it happened with the talent of Marie-Antoine Carême, that when there was a party in on of the rich houses, he was sent as an extra to monitor the buffet set up and at the right moment, to place his artful center piece. In the house of the Prince Talleyrand, there would not have been a party without the art full center pieces of Marie-Antoine Carême.
In 1813, Marie-Antoine Carême, was the owner of a confisserie in the “Rue de la Paix” in Paris and he enjoyed good business. However, it was during that time when his professional knowledge made greater advancements. He studied the culture and behaviors of the Romans and Greek, and that was the time, when he started to write professional books, which at that time most professions were lacking. He codified the classic French recipes that are still being executed to this day by chefs all over the world.
Marie – Antoine Carême, later traveled a lot and even to Russia, and that not on his own wanting to go he was welcomed and asked by the Russian leader at that time. In his lifetime, Carême has contributed tremendously to the development of the culinary arts. From a poor boy abandoned by his father in the streets of Paris to fend for himself, he rose to become one of the greatest culinary luminaries of all times.
Well with this short biography of Marie – Antoine Carême, I gave here as my magazine space is running out, which for sure is far longer by the author Harry Schraemli. However in short, Marie – Antoine Carême, was truly a genius and a hard working individual in the hard times he lived in. He was respected by Kings and the Kings chefs respected him and this is the reason why he is called the Chef of the Kings. However, whatever he wrote, he wrote based on research and practical experience. He became a reliable source of information to all other master chefs after him and if you read Escoffier’s works, a lot of his teachings he learned from Marie – Antoine Carême’s books.
Next issue, the biography of the “chef of the chefs”, Escoffier (born 1847).
For any comments, such as wrong dates or wrong facts as may have been published in other books, I am open to receive them and will check back with the author’s son about the source of information.