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History of George Auguste Escoffier

1846 - 1935

 

 

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Auguste Escoffier, was born in Villeneuve-Loubet,  France in 1846.   He is considered by many to be the father of modern day cuisine but is probably best known for having created the dessert Peach Melba for the singer Dame Nellie Melba.  However there is much more to this master chef.

Prior to Escoffier, great chefs were only to be found in the kitchens of the nobility and royalty, but Escoffier was the first of the master chefs to work directly for the public, and was never employed in a private household. He started his career at the age of 12, when he entered into apprenticeship at his uncle's restaurant in Nice, after which he went on to another apprenticeship in Paris at the age of 19.

At that time Grande Cuisine was composed of very complicated recipes, the dishes being adorned with rich sauces and garnishes which somewhat obscured the main ingredients. However, Escoffier's idea was to simplify these extravagant dishes - a trend which was taken up my the culinary world. He also changed the practice of serving all the dishes at the same time ( à la française) to serving each dish in the order printed on the menu (service à la russe).

Whilst he was never employed directly by royalty or the nobility, his time at high-class hotels such as the Savoy,  The Carlton House and The Ritz, found him cooking for and praised by royalty, heads of states, and many celebrities and  in 1904, he even took charge of the kitchen on board The Imperator - a ship used by the German Imperial Family. It is reported that the Emperor of Germany was so impressed with the cuisine that he commented "I am the Emperor of Germany, but you are the Emperor of Chefs".

His general philosophy on food had more far-reaching effects, in particular with regards to hygiene and work standards, which he found to be very poor in general. At the time, chefs were not highly regarded and it was Escoffier who made the profession more respectable by instilling a sense of pride in his subordinates. He also started the brigade system in his kitchens which is the practice of each section in the kitchen being run by a chef de partie (section head chef). He was also one of the first of the master chefs to take a true interest in the nutritional value foods.

 

Escoffier went on to write many articles and books on cooking, the most famous being Le Guide Culinaire and Ma Cuisine and in 1920, he was awarded the Legion of Honour for his services to French Cuisine.

Escoffier died aged 89 on February 12th, 1935 but in gastronomy circles, his legend lives on with the values he brought to to the art of cooking still in practice today.

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