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a "Master Class" with a famous chef in history


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The thread on the pronunciation of currently famous chefs made me think about a hypothetical .... a fantasy a food lover might wish to enjoy, namely, if you were to have the opportunity to study, learn from, ask questions of, a chef from history ... perhaps Brillat-Savarin, Escoffier, Taillevant, or anyone else you choose:

with whom would you want to spend a week ?

and what would you specifically want to learn about? A dish? a technique? a philosophy?

My choice?

Marie-Antoine Careme, to learn about his techniques of constructing food presentation ... pieces montees

Careme's kitchen

Just read a little on his background, which I found extremely fascinating:

"Carême was the founder of La Grande Cuisine Francaise, the classic French style of cooking that is admired today throughout the world. Along with the French Revolution came Carême's great culinary revolution. This artist, writer, and extraordinarily gifted chef, one of the great innovators of the kitchen, led French gastronomy into the nineteenth century and made the French culinary art sovereign throughout Europe". ..... Carême was left in the streets by his father to fend for himself at the age of 8 as a "runabout and pot washer" He was employed by the then famous pastry chef Bailly. While he was studying the art of pastry designing under Bailly, Carême also learned how to read. He read every cookbook he could get his hands on and vowed to write the most in depth book on French cuisine ever created. ....Carême was the first to simplify the menus of the time which later would be put to full effect by Escoffier. His interest in architect enhanced his creations enabling him to design works of pastry art from different doughs, preserved fruits, creams and sherbets.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Asian chefs which are probably nameless in the annals of history -- I'd love to learn about the cooking of royal banquet dishes from the court chefs of the Chinese and Japanese emperors and the King of Siam.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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ditto Jason's suggestions and adding to this various cooks form the Ottoman courts (specifically the pastry guys).

Oh the Ottoman stuff, definitely. The Holy Roman Empire must have had some amazing food.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Catherine de Medici' chefs - to finally work out what they did and didn't know how to make.

Escoffier - I would take him to a supermarket and tell him to whip up something tasty from what was available. Would be interested to see what he thought of tetra-pak stocks.

Agnes Marshall - I don't really like icecream, but I for her I would make an exception and spend a day making and eating them.

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Escoffier and I have the same birthday, (give or take a hundred and some years), so that might be kind of fun?

SB (the younger and better looking of the two)

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Escoffier and Brillat-Savarin would definitely be good choices, but while we are on the imperial chefs thing -- how about the head chef at Versailles during Louis XIV? Or the head chef of Peter the Great or Tsar Nicholas? Or Catherine?

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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while we are on the imperial chefs thing -- how about the head chef at Versailles during Louis XIV?

Made me curious about the chefs who worked for Louis the Fourteenth at Versailles ...

Contributions of the Sun King

La Varenne's cookbook was a gastronomic landmark, but a long time was to pass before the French cuisine would achieve its modern forms. In pre-Revolutionary France extravagance and ostentation were the hallmarks of gastronomy. Perhaps the most extravagant Frenchman of the time was the Sun King, Louis XIV, who, with members and guests of his court, wined and dined in unparalleled splendour at his palace at Versailles. There the kitchens were some distance from the King's quarters; the food was prepared by a staff of more than 300 people and was carried to the royal quarters by a procession headed by two archers, the lord steward, and other notables. As the cry “the King's meat” proclaimed their progress, an assemblage laden with baskets of knives, forks, spoons, toothpicks, seasonings, and spices solemnly made their way to the King's quarters. Before the King dined, tasters sampled the food to make certain it had not been poisoned. The King himself was such a prodigious eater that members of the court and other dignitaries considered it a privilege merely to stand by and watch him devour his food. His sister-in-law reported that at one meal he ate:

'four plates of different soups, an entire pheasant, a partridge, a large plateful of salad, mutton cut up in its juice with garlic, two good pieces of ham, a plateful of cakes, and fruits and jams.'

Louis XIV is remembered principally for his extravagance, but he was genuinely interested in the culinary arts. He established a new protocol for the table; dishes were served in a definite order instead of being placed on the table all at once without any thought to complementary dishes. The fork came to be widely used in France during his reign, and the manufacture of fine French porcelain was begun. The King himself hired a lawyer-agronomist, La Quintinie, to supervise the gardens at Versailles and was intensely interested in the fruits and vegetables—strawberries, asparagus, peas, and melons—that were grown there. He paid special honour to members of his kitchen staff, conferring the title of officer on his cooks.

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Escoffier and Brillat-Savarin would definitely be good choices, but while we are on the imperial chefs thing -- how about the head chef at Versailles during Louis XIV? Or the head chef of Peter the Great or Tsar Nicholas? Or Catherine?

I don't think that Cathy was into food that much. On the otherhand she would be great for a masterclass in sexual debautchery.

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Escoffier and Brillat-Savarin would definitely be good choices, but while we are on the imperial chefs thing -- how about the head chef at Versailles during Louis XIV? Or the head chef of Peter the Great or Tsar Nicholas? Or Catherine?

I don't think that Cathy was into food that much. On the otherhand she would be great for a masterclass in sexual debautchery.

Yeah, she did fool around a lot, did she.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Thomas Keller, without question. 

Failing that, Grant Achatz.

I wanted to hear about dead chefs .. you know, historically famous dudes!! :wink:

Oops, my apologies. Comprehension is apparently something I lack before noon.

In that case, Escoffier it is.

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Yo, people, let's get our facts straight.

Brillat-Savarin was not a chef, and neither was Vatel. The fish was not a problem at Versailles; it was at Chantilly that it failed to arrive on time, and that (coming on top of of a fireworks disaster the previous evening) is what precipitated Vatel's suicide.

As for Carême, he'd be well worth studying with (though I'm not convinced that he'd be a good teacher - still, you couldn't help learning something by working under him). But he had nothing whatsoever against service à la russe - was quite impressed with it, in fact, and enjoyed experimenting with it late in his career. He did feel that it was less appropriate to major state banquets than the more theatrical service à la française - but he also thought it highly practical and effective for smaller, more intimate occasions.

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