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.