& COOKING ARTICLE
of George Auguste Escoffier
Auguste Escoffier was thought to have been born on the 28th
October 1846, in Villeneuve
Loubet, a village which nestles peacefully below its
mediaeval castle, in the neighbourhood of Nice, in the Provence
region. He died February 12, 1935, having modernised and simplified
the elaborate cuisine created by the eighteenth century master
chef, Marie Careme.
a young boy, he grew up in happy family surroundings.
His father was a blacksmith and he also grew tobacco
plants. He was known to be good-humoured, strong and
a pleasing man. His fine physique, slim, strong body
and open smiling face conveyed a feeling of health and
friendliness which made him popular with everyone.
to the age of twelve, Auguste went to the local school.
The enthusiasm which he showed for drawing and everything
which gave him the opportunity to interpret the beauty
around him seemed to indicate the vocation of an artist.
But the child's future was to be very different. Perhaps
it was the personality of the boy's grandmother that
we must recognise to be one of the factors determining
his future. Auguste loved and admired his grandmother,
and perhaps it was at play in her kitchen that the desire
was born to devote his life to the creation of artistic
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was thirteen years old. The time had come for him to learn
a trade. "By all means let him devote his leisure time to
art, but whoever made a living by it?" This reasoning, full
of peasant good sense, was what prompted Escoffier's father
to take the boy to Nice, where his uncle had opened Le
Restaurant Francais. Auguste's uncle had succeeded in
establishing a reputation for his restaurant which was to
last until 1910.
was hard in the kitchens in those days, all the more
so for an apprentice, and his uncle granted Auguste
no special favours. Apart from the work of the kitchen,
he was initiated into all the household tasks. He knew
how to select and buy provisions as well as organise
the service. Escoffier always remembered with gratitude
the strict discipline and severity of his early training.
When he was nineteen, the owner of the Le Petit
Moulin Rouge, the most fashionable restaurant in
Paris, noticed him during a stay in Nice and invited
him to join his team. There he stayed, but for a brief
military training, until 1870 when the Franco-Prussian
War broke out and he was recalled to the army. He was
appointed Chef de Cuisine.
is no doubt that it was those days of siege which forced
Escoffier to think so seriously about the necessity
of preparing tinned food. He was the first chef to study
thoroughly the technique of canning meat, vegetables
and sauces. Escoffier retumed to the Le Petit Moulin
Rouge after the war and remained its Head Chef until
1878. It is said that he took to wearing built up shoes
so as to work better on the stoves (he was a man of
1871 Escoffier worked in a number of restaurants, mostly
in Paris, until he opened his own restaurant in Cannes
called Le Faisan d'Or (The Golden Pheasant).
His next appointment was to the Management of the Maison
Chevet, at the Palais Royal. This was a very fashionable
restaurant particularly for big dinners and official
banquets. Escoffier's next move took him to La Maison
Maire, where Monsieur Paillard entrusted him with
the management of his kitchens.
The main event during this period was his marriage to
Delphine Daffis, the daughter of a publisher.
poetry herself, she contributed to his first publication
in book form entitled 'Les Fleurs en Cire' (Flowers
in Wax). Escoffier wrote and published a great deal
and he is still consulted as an authority.
best known culinary writings of Escoffier are:
Traite sur L'art de Travailler les Fleurs en Cire
Livre des Menus
Fleurs en Cire (a new edition)
written work is, without question, that of a man far
in advance of his time, yet he never failed to acknowledge
the contribution of his predecessors. And though circumstances
later kept him and his wife apart for long periods,
they remained profoundly devoted to one another until
the very end, fifty-five years later. They had two sons
and a daughter.
left for Monte Carlo, (city in Monaco on the Mediterranean
Coast) where the gambling casino was enjoying rapidly growing
fame. He was Directeur de Cuisine of the Grand Hotel
and during the next six years divided his time between the
Grand Hotel in Winter and the Hotel National
in Lucerne, Switzerland, in the summer.
was here that Escoffier met Cesar
Ritz who came from a small village in the Swiss Valais.
Ritz started as a hotel groom and rapidly worked his way up
to head waiter and into Hotel Management. The mutual understanding
and teamwork between Escoffier and Ritz was to bring about
the most significant changes and modern development in the
Along with Escanard, Escoffier and Ritz were called
to the Savoy Hotel in London as General Manager
and Head of Restaurant Services respectively. Their
success was beyond expectation. Hotels all over the
world grew out of this famous partnership. They included
the Savoy and Carlton in London, the Grand
Hotel in Rome, the Ritz Hotels in Paris,
London, New York, Montreal, Philadelphia and many more.
Many of the hotels throughout the world were established
on the guarantee of their reputation, the very names
Ritz and Carlton being synonymous with quality and a
high degree of comfort.
Ritz and Escoffier, each in his own sphere, organised teams
of first class workers who went out into all the corners of
the world on ships and in hotels spreading the fame of French
cuisine and comfort. Escoffier enjoyed considerable powers
and had extensive means at his disposal, his role was both
complex and difficult. Without losing sight of the commercial
considerations involved, he was expected several times daily
and at any hour to serve the kind of meals expected by a numerous
and exigent clientele with very limited time to spare. lt
was essential to have some dishes prepared in advance for
those who had not the time to wait. He had to keep in mind
not only the short time allowed for the actual consumption
of the meal, but also the often non-existent, time allowed
by business men for the digestive process.
work of the kitchen had to be so organised that the
quality of the food was not impaired by the speed with
which it had to be served or by the number of clients.
Hygienic considerations had to be taken into account
also and, last but not least, in a country where the
supply of provisions is often more difficult than in
France, he had to organise a system of marketing which
reconciled peerless quality with an economic price.
evening he had to think up new menus so as never to
be found wanting by the gourmets attracted to the Savoy
by his presence. Escoffier created many of his famous
dishes in the honour of his guests, most notably:
In honour of the Australian Singer, Nellie Melba. During
1892 and 1893, Madame Melba lived at the Savoy Hotel. She
was singing at Covent Garden Opera House, and Escoffier,
who was passionately interested in the theatre, was an enthusiastic
Majestic Swan which appears on the scene, gave him
the idea of preparing a surprise for the brilliant
singer. The following evening Melba had invited some
friends to dinner. Taking advantage of this opportunity,
Escoffier had peaches served on a bed of vanilla ice-cream
in a metal dish, set between two wings of a magnificent
swan, shaped out of a block of ice and covered with
a layer of icing sugar.
was on the day of the opening of the Carlton Hotel
in London that Escoffier decided on the flavour which
was to give this dessert its real claim to distinction.
Out of the whole range of fruit flavours, he chose
raspberry, thus 'Peach Melba' officially came
In 1881 the Jeannette, a ship equipped for an expedition
to the North Pole, became icebound. The whole crew
died except two sailors who after repeated efforts
managed to reach the Siberian coast.
was in memory of this expedition that Escoffier wanted
to give the name of this ship to one of his greatest
culinary successes 'Les Supremes de Volailles Jeannette'.
de Nymphe Aurore:
(a dish of frogs legs) for the Prince of Wales
Mignonettes of Quail: in homage to two great actresses.
Rossini: named after the great Italian composer,
to mention all the recipes of his we still use today. Is it
then no wonder he gained the title of 'King of Chefs' and
'Chef of Kings'.
Cesar and Escoffier opened the Hotel Ritz in
Paris, which was the most modern of the time. It had
electric lights, large bathrooms built into cupboards.
A wine cellar that held four thousand bottles of vintage
wine and a reserve cellar a few blocks away that held
another one hundred and eighty thousand bottles! However
at their instance the ovens were fired by coke or wood.
Carlton Hotel was opened in the very heart of London.
The kitchens, administered by Escoffier who had a team of
sixty cooks under his control, were so organised as to be
able easily to serve menus à la carte, a practice introduced
for the first time at the Carlton. lt was not unusual,
particularly on a Sunday to serve anything up to five hundred
clients at each meal. Escoffier was to spend more than twenty
years there. In 1901 the team broke up when Cesar had a nervous
breakdown (dying in 1918). Escoffier remained at the Carlton
Saw the publication of his first book, Le Guide Culinaire,
an amazing compendium of around five thousand recipes
and garnishes. He was associated with Monsieur E Fetu
and Monsieur P Traisneau in founding in 1903, l'Association
Culinaire Francaise de Secours Muteuls, a friendly
society for French cooks working in England.
The German Shipping Company, Hamburg - Amerika Lines,
decided to introduce an à la carte restaurant
service for the more illustrious of the passengers on
their liners. The service was to be named 'The RitzCarlton
Restaurants'. Escoffier was invited to plan the
Again the Hamburg - Amerika Shipping Line requested
Escoffier's services for the inauguration of the kitchens.
During the official trial cruise the Press gave it ample
publicity. They headlined "Cuisine Hailed on Sea
as on Land".
the liner Imperator shortly before the start
of World War I, as the Larousse Gastronomique
tells it, the Kaiser, Emperor William II, was so impressed
with the job that the supervisor of the ship's imperial
kitchens had done that he turned to him and said, "I
am the Emperor of Germany, but you are the Emperor of
Auguste Escoffier was sixty-eight years of age. He continued
to direct the Carlton's kitchens. In spite of
his small stature, he displayed the same energy and
strength as had his father.
At the age of seventy-three, Escoffier decided to leave
the Carlton and to retire to Monte Carlo and
rejoin his wife. Escoffier, however, could not adapt
himself to retirement. At Monte Carlo he met once again
the widow of his friend Jean Giroix, with whom he worked
at the Petit Mouline Rouge, and whose place he
had taken at the Grand Hotel, Monaco. Escoffier
accepted her proposal that he should collaborate with
her in the administration of the Hotel de I'Ermitage.
He also assisted in the development of the Riviera
Hotel in Upper Monte Carlo.
On 22nd March, the Commander of the Legion of Honour
and Director of Technical Education, conferred on Escoffier
the Order of Officer of the Legion of Honour. Escoffier
was the first chef to be honoured.
often composed menus himself when he knew the clients.
When he did not know them, the head waiter would give
brief indications of their nationality, of how many
men and how many women made up the party, and of any
preferences they had disclosed. This information enabled
Escoffier to adapt the menu to suit the guests.
first menu composed by Escoffier was on the 16 December
introduced notable changes also in the presentation
of his dishes and even in the actual choice of china.
His primary consideration was the comfort of the client.
He chose fine china, silver, linen and glassware
which enhanced the superb food and wine. He introduced
the most practical of kitchen utensils and those best
suited to the quality of the cuisine.
Received the Rosette of an Officer of the Legion from
the German Emperor, William II.
On the 12th February, a few short days after
the death of his wife, Escoffier died in his home, La
Villa Fernand, 8 bis Avenue de la Costa, Monte Carlo
in his eighty-ninth year. His remains are buried in
the family vault at Villeneuve - Loubet. The house where
he was born was transformed into a museum of culinary
art in 1966, at the suggestion of one of his cooks.
the beginning of Escoffier's career, cooking was not
a profession held in high esteem. This was due partly
to the laxity which could so easily creep in and also
to the rigorous conditions of work. The cook spends
the greater part of his time around the stove in overwhelming
heat and in the midst of the smell of cooking, which,
when concentrated, is sometimes almost unbearable. He
works continuously without a moment's respite. For these
reasons, in the mid-nineteenth century drinking was
inevitably rife in the kitchen. Escoffier was quick
to realise the risks in giving way to such excesses.
cuisine suffered, the atmosphere in the kitchen suffered
and the appearance of certain old cooks, undermined
by years of work in such conditions and by their intemperance,
gave him food for thought. He, with his small stature,
was destined to suffer even more than others from the
heat of the stoves. However, he never allowed himself
to drink or smoke. He made it a point of honour to preserve
his impeccable taste. Later, when he had become a chef,
he called upon a famous doctor to invent a pleasant
and healthy drink which would relieve the discomfort
of cooks working in such conditions.
in all the hotel kitchens which he planned, there was
always a vast kettle containing a barley drink. This
allowed Escoffier to prohibit the drinking of alcohol
in the kitchen. Intemperance also provoked vulgarity.
There was swearing and shouting, and young apprentices
were often brutally treated. Escoffier fought from the
first against professional slang and vulgarity of speech.
Oaths and vulgar display of temper were no longer allowed.
On his insistance there were to be no swearing and brutality
to apprentices (as was the norm) and more thirst quenching
drinks (non-alcoholic) were made available to combat
the heat (beer and wine). He himself would leave the
kitchen rather than lose his temper with the staff.
also insisted on the cleanliness of his employees during
working hours, and also encouraged them to dress and
behave better outside. He was concerned too, with his
employee's educational status, and advised them to acquire
the culture which their professional training, often
begun at a very early age, had prevented them from attaining.
kitchen brigade as we know it of Chef de Parties, was
a system devised and implemented by Escoffier. Kitchens
had for centuries been seperated into sections, but
it was August who devised an organised system, to ensure
there was no doubling up of work and that things were
properly organised. Escoffier's kitchens were said to
be well run and organised. Escoffier introduced the
genuine frying-pan into English Life.
was also responsible for simplifying menus, instead
of vast arrays of dishes served all at once, Service
à la Française (as was the practice), it was Escoffier
that wrote them down and served in the order they appeared,
Service à la Russe.
"I well remember a shooting party given by one of
my friends who owned a vast property in an exquisite
valley of the Haute-Savoie. My friend had chosen this
domain so that he could go there from time to time,
far from the irritations of a too active life.
was the beginning of November, a period when the shooting
offers particularly attractive sport, especially in
these rather wild districts. About ten guests were
assembled on the Thursday evening, and it was decided
that at dawn the following morning we should all set
out, dispersing as chance directed, in search of a
few coveys of partridge.
meal, that evening, was composed of a cream of pumpkin
soup with little croutons fried in butter, a young
turkey roasted on the spit accompanied by a large
country sausage and a salad of potatoes, dandelions
and beetroot, and followed by a big bowl of pears
cooked in red wine and served with whipped cream.
morning at the agreed hour, we were all ready, and
furnished with the necessary provisions and accompanied
by local guides, we climbed the rocky paths, real
goat tracks, without too much difficulty and before
long the fusillade began. It was those members of
the party who had gone ahead who were opening the
shoot by bagging two hares; the day promised to be
fairly fruitful. And indeed so it turned out, since
we were back at the house by about four o'clock, somewhat
tired, but proud to count out: three hares, a very
young chamois, eleven partridges, three capercailzies,
six young rabbits, and a quantity of small birds.
After a light collation, we patiently awaited dinner
contemplating the while the admirable panorama which
lay before us. The game which we had shot was reserved
for the next day's meals.
Our dinner that evening consisted of a cabbage, potato,
and kohl rabi soup, augmented with three young chickens,
an enormous piece of lean bacon, and a big farmhouse
sausage. The broth, with some of the mashed vegetables,
was poured over slices of toast, which made an excellent
rustic soup. What remained of the vegetables were
arranged on a large dish around the chickens, the
bacon, and the sausage; here was the wherewithal to
comfort the most robust of stomachs, and each of us
did due honour to this good family dish.To follow,
we were served with a leg of mutton, tender and pink,
accompanied by a purée of chestnuts. Then,
a surprise - but one which was not entirely unexpected
from our host, who had an excellent cook - an immense,
hermetically sealed terrine, which, placed in the
middle of the table, gave out, when it was uncovered,
a marvelous scent of truffles, partridges, and aromatic
herbs. This terrine contained eight young partridges,
amply truffled and cased in fat bacon, a little bouquet
of mountain herbs and several glasses of fine champagne
cognac. All had been lengthily and gently cooked in
hot embers. At the same time was served a celery salad.
As for the wines, we had first the excellent local
wine, then Burgundy, and finally a famous brand of
champagne. The dinner ended with beautiful local fruit,
and fine liqueurs.
The next day's luncheon was composed partly of the
trophies of the previous day's shooting; the pure
mountain air had advantageously taken the place of
any aperitif; nor did we have any hors-d'oeuvre
but instead, some char from the lac du Bourget, cooked
and left to get cold in white wine from our host's
own vineyards. These were accompanied by a completely
original sauce, and here is the recipe:
Grated horseradish, mixed with an equal quantity
of skinned walnuts finely chopped; a dessertspoon
of powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, the juice of
two lemons, enough fresh cream to obtain a sauce
neither too thick nor too liquid.
all carried away with us the happiest memory of this
beautiful country of Savoie and of the very hospitable
welcome which we had received. For my part, I have
never forgotten the sauce of horseradish and walnuts."
Chef Jos Wellman
Hub-UK : firstname.lastname@example.org