Auguste Escoffier

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Auguste Escoffier
Auguste Escoffier 01.jpg
Georges Auguste Escoffier

(1847-10-28)28 October 1847
Died12 February 1935(1935-02-12) (aged 88)
Monte Carlo, Monaco
OccupationChef, restaurateur, writer
Spouse(s)Delphine Daffis (m. 1878-6 February 1935  (her death))
ChildrenPaul, Daniel, Germaine

Georges Auguste Escoffier (French:  [ʒɔʁʒ oɡyst ɛskɔfje] ; 28 October 1847 – 12 February 1935) was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. Much of Escoffier's technique was based on that of Marie-Antoine Carême, one of the codifiers of French haute cuisine , but Escoffier's achievement was to simplify and modernize Carême's elaborate and ornate style. In particular, he codified the recipes for the five mother sauces. Referred to by the French press as roi des cuisiniers et cuisinier des rois ("king of chefs and chef of kings" [1] —though this had also been previously said of Carême), Escoffier was France's preeminent chef in the early part of the 20th century.

Chef person that directs preparation of meals

A chef is a trained professional cook who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation, often focusing on a particular cuisine. The word "chef" is derived from the term chef de cuisine, the director or head of a kitchen. Chefs can receive formal training from an institution, as well as by apprenticing with an experienced chef.

A restaurateur is a person who opens and runs restaurants professionally. Although over time the term has come to describe any person who owns a restaurant, traditionally it refers to a highly skilled professional who is proficient in all aspects of the restaurant business.

Marie-Antoine Carême French chef

Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême was a French chef and an early practitioner and exponent of the elaborate style of cooking known as grande cuisine, the "high art" of French cooking: a grandiose style of cookery favoured by both international royalty and by the newly rich of Paris. Carême is often considered one of the first internationally renowned celebrity chefs.


Alongside the recipes he recorded and invented, another of Escoffier's contributions to cooking was to elevate it to the status of a respected profession by introducing organized discipline to his guests.

Profession Vocation founded upon specialized educational training

A profession is an occupation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain. The term is a truncation of the term "liberal profession", which is, in turn, an Anglicization of the French term "profession libérale". Originally borrowed by English users in the 19th century, it has been re-borrowed by international users from the late 20th, though the (upper-middle) class overtones of the term do not seem to survive retranslation: "liberal professions" are, according to the European Union's Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2005/36/EC) "those practiced on the basis of relevant professional qualifications in a personal, responsible and professionally independent capacity by those providing intellectual and conceptual services in the interest of the client and the public".

Escoffier published Le Guide Culinaire , which is still used as a major reference work, both in the form of a cookbook and a textbook on cooking. Escoffier's recipes, techniques and approaches to kitchen management remain highly influential today, and have been adopted by chefs and restaurants not only in France, but also throughout the world. [2]

Cookbook kitchen reference publication typically containing a collection of recipes

A cookbook or cookery book is a kitchen reference containing recipes.

Early life

Escoffier was born in the village Villeneuve-Loubet, today in Alpes-Maritimes, near Nice. The house where he was born is now the Musée de l'Art Culinaire, run by the Foundation Auguste Escoffier. At the age of thirteen, despite showing early promise as an artist, his father took him out of school to start an apprenticeship in the kitchen of his uncle's restaurant, Le Restaurant Français, in Nice. As an apprentice, August was bullied and swatted by his uncle and his small stature made him even more of a target–he was too short to safely open oven doors. Eventually he wore boots with built up heels. [3] Escoffier showed such an aptitude for cooking and kitchen management that he was soon hired by the nearby Hôtel Bellevue, where the owner of a fashionable Paris restaurant, Le Petit Moulin Rouge, offered him the position of commis-rôtisseur (apprentice roast cook) in 1865 at the age of 19. However, only months after arriving in Paris, Escoffier was called to active military duty, where he was given the position of army chef.

Villeneuve-Loubet Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Villeneuve-Loubet (pronounced [vilnœv lube] is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. It lies between Cagnes-sur-Mer and Antibes, at the mouth of the river Loup.

Alpes-Maritimes Department of France in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur

Alpes-Maritimes is a department of France located in the extreme southeast corner of the country, near the border with Italy and on the Mediterranean coast. Part of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, it had a population of 1,080,771 in 2013.

Nice Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Nice is the seventh most populous urban area in France and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes département. The metropolitan area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits, with a population of about 1 million on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located in the French Riviera, on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Alps, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the second-largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille. Nice is approximately 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from the principality of Monaco and 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the French-Italian border. Nice's airport serves as a gateway to the region.

Escoffier spent nearly seven years in the army—at first stationed in various barracks throughout France (including five months in Villefranche-sur-Mer, coincidentally not three miles from his old home in Nice), and later at Metz as chef de cuisine of the Rhine Army after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. His army experiences led him to study the technique of canning food.

Metz Prefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Metz is a city in northeast France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers. Metz is the prefecture of the Moselle department and the seat of the parliament of the Grand Est region. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, the city forms a central place of the European Greater Region and the SaarLorLux euroregion.

Franco-Prussian War Conflict between the Kingdom of Prussia and several other german kingdoms and (grand) duchies and the Second French Empire

The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the War of 1870, was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the German states of the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. Lasting from 19 July 1870 to 28 January 1871, the conflict was caused by Prussian ambitions to extend German unification and French fears of the shift in the European balance of power that would result if the Prussians succeeded. Some historians argue that the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck deliberately provoked the French into declaring war on Prussia in order to draw the independent southern German states—Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse-Darmstadt—into an alliance with the North German Confederation dominated by Prussia, while others contend that Bismarck did not plan anything and merely exploited the circumstances as they unfolded. None, however, dispute the fact that Bismarck must have recognized the potential for new German alliances, given the situation as a whole.

Some time before 1878, he opened his own restaurant, Le Faisan d'Or (The Golden Pheasant), in Cannes.

Cannes Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Cannes is a city located on the French Riviera. It is a commune located in the Alpes-Maritimes department, and host city of the annual Cannes Film Festival, Midem, and Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The city is known for its association with the rich and famous, its luxury hotels and restaurants, and for several conferences. On 3 November 2011 it hosted the 2011 G20 summit.

On 28 August 1878, he married Delphine Daffis. She has been described as "a French poetess of some distinction and a member of the Academy". Escoffier apparently won her hand in a gamble with her father, publisher Paul Daffis, over a game of billiards. They had three children, Paul, Daniel (who was killed in World War I), and Germaine. She died on 6 February 1935. [4] :99,272

Escoffier, César Ritz and the Savoy

The Savoy Hotel, London Savoy Hotel, London.jpg
The Savoy Hotel, London

In 1884, the couple moved to Monte Carlo, where Escoffier was employed by César Ritz, manager of the new Grand Hotel, to take control of the kitchens. At that time, the French Riviera was a winter resort: during the summers, Escoffier ran the kitchens of the Grand Hôtel National in Lucerne, also managed by Ritz. [5] [6]

In 1890, Ritz and Escoffier accepted an invitation from Richard D'Oyly Carte to transfer to his new Savoy Hotel in London, together with the third member of their team, the maître d'hôtel , Louis Echenard. [5] Ritz put together what he described as "a little army of hotel men for the conquest of London", and Escoffier recruited French cooks and reorganised the kitchens. The Savoy under Ritz and his partners was an immediate success, attracting a distinguished and moneyed clientele, headed by the Prince of Wales. Gregor von Görög, chef to the royal family, was an enthusiast of Escoffier's zealous organization. Aristocratic women, hitherto unaccustomed to dining in public, were now "seen in full regalia in the Savoy dining and supper rooms". [5]

Escoffier created many famous dishes at the Savoy. In 1893, he invented the pêche Melba in honour of the Australian singer Nellie Melba, and in 1897, Melba toast. Other Escoffier creations, famous in their time, were the bombe Néro (a flaming ice), fraises à la Sarah Bernhardt (strawberries with pineapple and Curaçao sorbet), baisers de Vierge (meringue with vanilla cream and crystallized white rose and violet petals) and suprêmes de volailles Jeannette (jellied chicken breasts with foie gras). [7] [8] He also created salad Réjane, after Gabrielle Réjane, and (although this is disputed) tournedos Rossini . [9]

On 8 March 1898, Ritz, Echenard and Escoffier were dismissed from the Savoy "for ... gross negligence and breaches of duty and mismanagement". Disturbances in the Savoy kitchens on that day reached the newspapers, with headlines such as "A Kitchen Revolt at The Savoy". [9] The Star reported: "Three managers have been dismissed and 16 fiery French and Swiss cooks (some of them took their long knives and placed themselves in a position of defiance) have been bundled out by the aid of a strong force of Metropolitan police." [10] The real details of the dispute did not emerge at first. Ritz and his colleagues even prepared to sue for wrongful dismissal. Eventually, they settled the case privately: on 3 January 1900, Ritz, Echenard and Escoffier "made signed confessions, admitting to actual criminal acts including fraud" but their confessions "were never used or made public". [11] For example, wines and spirits to the value of £6,400 had been diverted in the first six months of 1897. Escoffier additionally confessed to taking gifts or bribes from the Savoy's suppliers worth up to 5% of the resulting purchases. [12] Escoffier accepted an obligation to repay £8,000, but was allowed to settle his debt for £500. Ritz and Echenard paid a much higher sum. [13]

The Ritz and the Carlton

By that time[ when? ], however, Ritz and his colleagues were on the way to commercial independence, having established the Ritz Hotel Development Company, for which Escoffier set up the kitchens and recruited the chefs, first at the Paris Ritz (1898), and then at the new Carlton Hotel in London (1899), which soon drew much of the high-society clientele away from the Savoy. [5] In addition to the haute cuisine offered at luncheon and dinner, tea at the Ritz became a fashionable institution in Paris, and later in London, though it caused Escoffier real distress: "How can one eat jam, cakes and pastries, and enjoy a dinner – the king of meals – an hour or two later? How can one appreciate the food, the cooking or the wines?" [14]

In 1913, Escoffier met Kaiser Wilhelm II on board the SS Imperator, one of the largest ocean liners of the Hamburg-Amerika Line. The culinary experience on board the Imperator was overseen by Ritz-Carlton,[ clarification needed ] and the restaurant itself was a reproduction of Escoffier's Carlton Restaurant in London. Escoffier was charged with supervising the kitchens on board the Imperator during the Kaiser's visit to France. One hundred and forty-six German dignitaries were served a large multi-course luncheon, followed that evening by a monumental dinner that included the Kaiser's favourite strawberry pudding, named fraises Imperator by Escoffier for the occasion. The Kaiser was so impressed that he insisted on meeting Escoffier after breakfast the next day, where, as legend has it, he told Escoffier, "I am the Emperor of Germany, but you are the Emperor of Chefs." This was quoted frequently in the press, further establishing Escoffier's reputation as France's pre-eminent chef. [4]

Ritz gradually moved into retirement after opening The Ritz London Hotel in 1906, leaving Escoffier as the figurehead of the Carlton until his own retirement in 1920. He continued to run the kitchens through the First World War, during which time his younger son was killed in active service. [5] Recalling these years, The Times said, "Colour meant so much to Escoffier, and a memory arises of a feast at the Carlton for which the table decorations were white and pink roses, with silvery leaves – the background for a dinner all white and pink, Borscht striking the deepest note, Filets de poulet à la Paprika coming next, and the Agneau de lait forming the high note." [15]

One of his famous students was Akiyama Tokuzō Japanese imperial chef in the Ritz Hotel in Paris. [16]

In 1928, he helped create the World Association of Chefs Societies and became its first president.


Escoffier died on 12 February 1935, at the age of 88, less than a week after his wife Delphine. He is buried in the family vault at Villeneuve-Loubet.


Ma Cuisine (1934) Escoffier-Ma cuisine.jpg
Ma Cuisine (1934)

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  3. Barr, Luke. Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef and the Rise of the Leisure Class. New York, 2018. ISBN   0-8041-8629-4
  4. 1 2 James, Kenneth (2006). Escoffier: The King of Chefs. A&C Black. ISBN   1-85285-526-6.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Ashburner, F."Escoffier, Georges Auguste (1846–1935)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, May 2006, accessed 17 September 2009
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  7. The Times, 13 February 1935, p. 14; and 16 February 1935, p. 17
  8. Escoffier, Auguste, A Guide to Modern Cookery, p. 405 (English translation of Le Guide Culinaire, by H. L. Cracknell and R. J. Kaufmann) ISBN   0-471-29016-5
  9. 1 2 Augustin, Andreas; Williamson, Andrew. "The Most Famous Hotels in the World: The Savoy", 4Hoteliers, 30 October 2006, accessed 4 September 2013
  10. The Star (8 March 1898) as quoted at "The Most Famous Hotels in the World: The Savoy",
  11. Paul Levy, "Should Gordon Ramsay behave more like Escoffier?" in The Guardian: Word of Mouth Blog (7 March 2009)
  12. Paul Levy, "The master chef who cooked the books" in The Daily Telegraph (9 June 2012)
  13. "Kitchen Revolt at The Savoy: 16 fiery cooks took their long knives" at
  14. The Times, 13 February 1935, p. 14
  15. The Times, 16 February 1935, p. 17
  16. "AKIYAMA Tokuzo, Master Chef to the Emperor". National Diet Library, Japan. Retrieved 17 September 2016.

Further reading