Salut! My name is Morgan and I am currently doing work experience at Jellybean. As a French student and lover of the Great British Bake Off I decided to base my post on the national cuisine of Manon, who has sadly now left the tent. According to the Telegraph, French food is the fastest growing cuisine with French ready-meal sales having risen by 27% in the last year and restaurants such as Tante Marie and Côte Brasserie increasing in popularity. But I realised, ahead of Patisserie Week on Bake Off, that I do not know much about the history of French food.
Pre 20th Century
French Cuisine was established among the general population after the abolishment of the Guild System during the French Revolution because everyone became able to sell or produce culinary items. Additionally, famous chefs and authors started to write recipe books to store culinary traditions resulting in the preservation of many complex, culinary masterpieces
Marie Antoine Carême gained the title ‘King to chefs and chef to Kings’ after serving Napoleon for many years and creating/recording the 5 essentials of French gastronomy. The 5 infamous sauces: béchamel, espagnole, velouté, hollandaise, tomate are known as ‘fonds’ in French (meaning foundations). He wrote 3 gastronomic encyclopaedias which were more simply summarised by the author Alexandre Dumas in his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine.
Georges Auguste Escoffier was another chef from that century who decided to simplify Haute Cuisine both in his Culinary Guide and through his restaurant management. His implication of the Brigade System, in which the kitchen is divided according to role/technique instead of individual dish, is still used by most restaurants due to its efficiency.
In 1900, the Michelin Guide was created as a magazine for motorists. 20 years later it started to review hotels and restaurants and finally created the Michelin star for fine-dining institutes. Unfortunately the Michelin stars hold no official value nowadays but are still given as ceremony in accordance with legitimate government recognition.
In the mid 20th century Nouvelle Cuisine became a trend among popular chefs, such as Paul Bocuse and Raymond Oliver. It was seen as a rebel against the orthodox practice of Escoffier and many key characteristics have influenced modern day cuisine; shorter menus were favoured, use of light, fresh ingredients instead of thick sauces were more common and modern technology was incorporated into the cooking process (for example being Bocuse’s use of a microwave).
Arguably, one of the most monumental events in French Gastronomy is its preservation and recognition through UNESCO. In 2010 it was classed as part of intangible world heritage. UNESCO said: la cuisine ‘joue un rôle social actif dans sa communauté et il est transmis de génération en génération comme partie intégrante de son identité’. Describing how cuisine plays an active role in French communities and is passed from generation to generation as an integral part of the national identity. To find out more about the preservation and importance of French gastronomy to UNESCO click here: https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/gastronomic-meal-of-the-french-00437
Emmanuel Macron (the President of France) has expressed a wish for the baguette to also be listed as a valuable piece of intangible, French heritage. There is potential for this to take place as world-wide petitions have influenced the decisions at UNESCO before, namely with the pizza-making tradition of Naples.
This year, French cuisine has suffered a considerable loss with the death of Paul Bocuse (aged 91). He was the 1st chef to win a Michelin star at a German restaurant and he won a Légion d’Honneur because of his services to French Gastronomy. He set up the global competition Bocuse d’Or to honour and display the talent of the top chef’s in the world. Unfortunately England has never won an award in the competition since its creation in 1987. Macron described him as the “incarnation of French Cuisine”.
French Cuisine has evolved a lot since the French Revolution but in my opinion it is so highly valued because despite these developments many traditional aspects of the cuisine remain the same. The heavy significance of meals as a communal and social opportunity is still relied upon by many French families and allows them to appreciate and share this culture.