I’m not talking Wolfgang Puck, Racheal Ray and Jamie Oliver here. Those are well-known names today but this list of chefs were truly groundbreaking in the early days of the culinary industry and the invention of culinary TV. Chefs like Boulanger who opened the first restaurant ever in Paris, France in 1765, or Escoffier who created the brigade system still used in restaurant kitchens today, or Julia Child who brought culinary TV to Americans.
- In 1765, he opened the first restaurant ever in Paris, France.
- He advertised on his shop sign that he was serving soups called restaurants or restoratives; derived from the French word restaurer which means to restore or fortify.
- He served only one dish — sheep’s feet in a cream sauce.
- At the time in Paris, businesses were required to be a member of a guild in order to advertise and sell their product.
- Boulanger challenged the rules of the guild and won, unwittingly changing the course of modern food service.
- Abandoned by his parents in Paris in 1794 at the height of the French Revolution, he began working at age 10 as a kitchen boy at a cheap Parisian chophouse in exchange for room and board.
- After training under the executive chef to Napoleon, he went on to work for George IV in London, and Tsar Alexander I in St. Petersburg, Russia before returning to Paris.
- Carême gained fame in Paris for his pièces montées, elaborate constructions used as centerpieces. He made these confections, which were sometimes several feet high, entirely out of foodstuffs such as sugar, marzipan, and pastry.
- He modeled the elaborate pièces montées on temples, pyramids and ancient ruins, taking ideas from architectural history books.
- Carême died in his Paris home at the age of 48. His death was most likely caused by inhaling the toxic fumes of charcoal which he cooked over throughout his career.
- He is remembered as the father of haute cuisine and is credited with creating the chef’s hat, or toque, that is still used by chefs today as well as recording recipes for four mother sauces he created.
Georges Auguste Escoffier:
- Began his career in 1859 at the tender age of 13 as an apprentice under his uncle.
- Simplified Carême’s grand cuisine into classical cuisine with simple flavors and fewer ingredients.
- Refined Carême’s mother sauces into the 5 mother sauces we know today: Bechamel, Veloute, Tomat, Espagnole and Hollandaise.
- Escoffier was the first to name dishes after famous people (i.e. Peach Melba after an Opera singer and Oysters Rockefeller after Nelson Rockefeller).
- He served as chef de cuisine in the kitchens of the Ritz Hotel and Carlton Hotel before they combined and became what we know today as the Ritz Carlton.
- After a stint in the military, Escoffier established a concept that became known as the brigade system which is a structured team system that delegates responsibilities to different individuals who specialize in certain tasks in the kitchen. This system is still used in restaurant kitchens today.
- He is remembered as the most important figure in today’s French cuisine.
- When she started taking culinary classes, she did not know how to cook at all but had a great love for food.
- Julia graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris as the only female in her class.
- She is known for bringing French cuisine to American cooks through a cookbook she co-wrote titled “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
- She had a large impact on American households and housewives through her popular television shows which featured Julia unedited and making mistakes as any housewife might do in the kitchen. Her witty sense of humor made her a beloved American icon.
- Her kitchen, as seen on several of her TV shows, was designed by her husband and upon her death was donated to the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.