“We eat as we eat because of Auguste.”
- Heston Blumenthal
The culinary world has its brilliant chefs, innovators and pioneers but most would agree that the father of modern cuisine as we know it is Georges Auguste Escoffier. Arguably, the most famous chef of his time Escoffier was considered the “king of chefs and the chef of kings.” He took French cuisine and modernized it into what we still enjoy today. He was a master of the professional kitchen; organizing it into a system of sections that is still used in today’s best restaurants.
One of Escoffier’s biggest contributions was his ability to test and document recipes. In 1903 he published “Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire,” and it is considered one of the most influential reference cookbooks ever written. Escoffier was involved in updating and printing 4 editions of this book during his life. Each edition was carefully tested, modified and perfected. In 1983 this 4th edition was translated into English and it quickly became every modern chef’s bible.
Now there is a new edition published by Wiley in 2011. Keep reading to see how you can win a copy of this new book. This new edition includes more than 5,000 of Escoffier’s recipes as well as forwards by Dr. Tim Ryan, the president of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Heston Blumenthal, the acclaimed chef of The Fat Duck restaurant in England.
I asked Dr. Ryan and the publisher a few questions about the new edition and its place in today’s world of cookbooks. Here are those questions and answers:
1) Why is Le Guide still an important and relevant work in today’s age of continual innovation and works like Modernist Cuisine?
Dr. Ryan: “A lot has changed since the 1970′s when I bought my first copy of Le Guide Culinaire. Continental Cuisine was ubiquitous and French cuisine was the pinnacle of culinary achievement, but today, traditional and regional cuisines from around the globe have passed from obscure and unattainable to cutting edge. New technologies have changed the way we think about cooking. So, it seems only reasonable to ask if classic French cuisine has become irrelevant and Escoffier no more than an historical curiosity.
You could read Escoffier’s volume as nothing more than a period piece, of course. Loaf sugar, peacock, and other foods are hardly to be found in any contemporary kitchen but this would not have troubled Escoffier. He would have simply replaced them with a good substitute. Finding that good substitute is not possible unless you understand how and why dishes were prepared as they were. This kind of culinary thinking is exactly what today’s students of the culinary arts need to learn, and those lessons are found throughout the book.”
2) Why did the publisher decide to create this new edition now?
Publisher: “While some of the recipes and ingredients may seem antiquated, the general principles of cooking that Escoffier codified in this book in the early 1900s are still very relevant for today’s chefs. We chose to create a revised edition that includes forewords from Dr. Tim Ryan of The Culinary Institute of America and Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck restaurant, as well as a biography of Escoffier by his grandson, Pierre P. Escoffier, in order to provide context for Escoffier’s original edition, and to provide today’s chefs and culinary students with a modern perspective on his seminal work. Though culinary trends and techniques will continue to evolve, it will always be essential for chefs to master the fundamentals that Escoffier outlined so many years ago. This newest edition provides a fresh look at the principles that have formed the foundation of classic French cuisine for over a century.”
3) Can the guide also be useful to the serious home or self-taught chef?
Dr. Ryan: “Certainly. Escoffier’s narrative recipe style does assume a basic understanding of culinary concepts and techniques on the part of the reader. There are many important culinary books and other resources that can fill in any gaps for the home cook or self-taught chef. What this book offers that others do not is a higher level of discourse. His organization of material may seem difficult to the uninitiated, but by expecting readers and chefs to use their own understanding of the culinary arts, Escoffier encourages them to explore new possibilities and see new connections and relationships between technique, ingredients, flavors, and textures.”
4) Was this edition updated or modified with ingredients found today or was each recipe left as it was originally written?
Publisher: “This edition is a faithful translation of Escoffier’s 1921 fourth edition of Le Guide Culinaire. The only modification to the original recipes was the addition of Imperial unit conversions, which are listed in brackets following Escoffier’s original metric measurements. This means that in addition to classic recipes like Chicken Consommé, Cassoulet, Eggs Benedict, and Paté de Foie Gras, readers will also find a treasure trove of historical recipes such as Ortolan, Aspic of Woodcock, Sheep’s Trotters, and Pigeon Pie.”
5) What impact does Escoffier still have on the curriculum of today’s culinary student?
Dr. Ryan: “Thinking carefully and logically about your craft is the mark of the true professional. This book is based upon fundamental concepts and a philosophy that has never lost its modernity. Escoffier considers not just the preparation of a dish, but also the customers’ enjoyment of it. He was well aware that modern life was a force that the culinary regime had to embrace, and that it was never going to slow down. It is precisely because he took the effort to understand the guest and his needs that Escoffier’s work remains so relevant to students and chefs in the 21st century. It can be read as a dynamic conversation between the lessons of the past, the realities of the present (and the future), and the tension between professional chefs who have historical standards in mind, and guests who have their own expectations.”
Whether you are a trained, seasoned chef or a home chef who has a desire to improve your skills, Le Guide Culinaire should be on your bookshelf. It’s unlike any other cookbook you may purchase today. It does not have carefully styled glossy photos or step-by-step instructions that a child could follow. The recipes are short descriptions of classic methods and variations of recipes inspired by those methods. The book is a fascinating historical textbook that has guided chefs around the world.
The book may be purchased at Amazon or in major bookstores. But… to celebrate it’s reprinting, we are giving away three copies of Escoffier’s Le Culinaire here on Babble! To enter, please leave a comment in the comment’s section below stating your favorite well-loved cookbook title and you will be entered in the drawing.
THIS DRAWING IS CLOSED. THE WINNERS ARE…….
We will be in touch via email to get your mailing information so we can send your books! Thanks to all who entered the drawing! -Laura