"La bonne cuisine est la base du véritable bonheur.” [Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness.”]
|France awarded Escoffier the Legion of Honor|
in 1920, the first for a chef.
Escoffier became obsessed with kitchen reform. Perhaps because of his military experience, he created the hierarchal brigade de cuisine that is still used today in most restaurants. Another innovation attributable to Escoffier and that almost every restaurant patron experiences even today, is the printed menu with the courses listed sequentially. He was also the first to outfit waiters in ties and aprons. And perhaps to the disdain of Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey, Escoffier banned shouting and alcohol in the kitchen. Escoffier also published Le Guide Culinaire, a book still used in culinary schools throughout the world. Thus, it is safe to say that Escoffier made cooking a profession.
Escoffier may even have been a nascent feminist! He enticed English women to eat in a restaurant, at a time when respectable women simply refused to dine in public. (There’s a scene in a recent episode of “Downton Abbey” that alludes to this.) He is known to have named numerous dishes after women (e.g. Peach Melba). Ever the charmer, Escoffier was once quoted in the New York Times as saying that “[n]othing adds so much zest to a good dinner as to have a pretty woman sitting opposite you.” Charm indeed!
Escoffier died at the ripe old age of 88 on February 12, 1935, only a few weeks after his wife. Surprisingly, Escoffier's wife cooked all his meals when he was home. Of his wife, Escoffier said that “Mme. Escoffier cooks far better than I do.”
So for all you romantics who enjoyed a Valentine’s Day meal with impeccable service, beautiful printed menus, and enticing dishes with exotic names, you have Escoffier to thank. Bon appetit!