Why is it always the French?

The basic curriculum for us follows classical French cuisine, with Californian twists sprinkled throughout. But what Nathan wants to know is, why do the French always have to get involved?

One of the main reasons that we (and almost every other cooking school) follow French haute-cuisine is that it the only national cuisine that has been codified. The idea was to create a definition of what a French chef to be able to do and thereby create a profession. By ensuring that all chefs met this standard, they could maintain the quality and make sure that chefs were paid appropriately. The result of this was to generate a list of standard dishes, sauces and preparations that should be within the repetoire of a French chef. In this way, if a chef from Normandy were to say “Make me a mornay sauce” to a chef from Bordeaux (or Boston), he would get what he expected, and not some regional variation.

Many people were involved in the gradual codification and organisation of French cookery, including La Varenne, Antoine Careme and Brillat-Savarin. Auguste Escoffier simplified their work and out on the final touches, which he then recorded in Le Guide Culinaire – still used by chefs today.

Of course, a lot of these sacred rules and standards were overturned in the wave of Nouvelle Cuisine, but that’s another story.

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I’m Louise, and I’m a compulsive baker, cookbook hoarder and a bit of a food geek. I learnt to cook at home, and later at Tante Marie’s cooking school in San Francisco. With a science degree and a background in IT analysis, I like to understand why a recipe works, not just how to do it. Why the rules are there and when they can be broken.

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