Georges Auguste Escoffier
Georges Auguste Escoffier was born on October 28th 1846 in the Provence region of France. Escoffier’s major reference work titled Le Guide Culinaire, published in 1903 is full of recipes and techniques still used today by chefs and restaurateurs worldwide. Escoffier was a French chef who is still famous today for popularizing, simplifying and updating the more complicated style of Marie Antoine Carême, a force behind the elaborate French “high art” style of cooking known as haute cuisine.
While famous for his recipes and techniques, Escoffier is possibly even better known for his introduction of discipline and organization in the kitchen. His “brigade de cuisine system” brought strict organization to the kitchen by placing a chef de partie in each station of the kitchen. This system helped elevate the culinary industry to a more professional and respected level.
In 1870 the Franco-Prussian War broke and he was called to service as Chef de Cuisine. During this time he became the first chef to thoroughly study the technique of canning meat, vegetables and sauces.
Another noteworthy achievement for Escoffier was his modernization and simplification of the menu by organizing the menu in the order of courses to be served. He is also responsible for developing the first à la Carte menu at the Carlton Hotel in London. One of his most famous recipes is one developed at the Savoy Hotel in London called Peach Melba in honor of Austrian singer Nellie Melba who was living at the hotel at the time.
He was known as the “King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings.” But he also had a philanthropic side to his nature including organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry and programs to financially assist retired chefs. His greatest honor may have come after serving Kaiser Wilhelm II (the last German Emperor) several elaborate meals on board a luxury cruise liner on its way to France, the Emperor told him “I am the Emperor of Germany, but you are the Emperor of Chefs.” That title stuck with him for his lifetime.
Escoffier began his career at the young age of 13 in Nice at Le Restaurant Francais, a restaurant owned by his uncle and retired 61 years later in 1920 from the Ritz-Carlton. He passed away at 89 years of age in Monte Carlo on February 12th, 1935, several days after the passing of his wife of 55 years, Delphine Daffis. His remains are buried in the family vault at Villeneuve – Loubet and the house where he was born was turned into a museum of culinary arts in 1966.