The Jazz Age Of French Cuisine
One of these most interesting culinary periods in the country is the French food of the 1920s. This was a time when many ancient recipes were renewed and what was once the food eaten by the poor became the basis of fine dining for the wealthy.
It was ironic that the French food that appeared in the 1920s did not involve creating new dishes except the crepe suzette which was introduced during this time. Instead, the French food was prepared with new techniques and became high dining or haute cuisine.
The country’s chefs were able to build on the increasing number of hotels that featured their restaurants with food that was more efficiently prepared. This was a time when the restaurant was often the highlight of the experience of the guests. Haute cuisine was able to be prepared more quickly and on a grander scale while still using meticulous preparation techniques and expensive ingredients.
Georges Auguste Escoffier was the chef who laid the groundwork for the revival of French food in the 1920s. From the late 1800s through 1910 he revolutionize the preparation of haute cuisine.
Escoffier is the visionary who is credited with dividing the kitchen into several different stations where one chef was responsible for a separate part of a meal or dish’s preparation. This division of duties led to such chefs as a garde manager whose responsibility it was to prepare all the cold dishes and the rotisseur was responsible for any foods that needed to be roasted, grilled or fried.
By using these techniques, dishes that used to take 30 minutes to be prepared were now able to be completed on just half the time because different chefs were working on specific parts of the meal at the same time.
Escoffier has also been given the credit for helping to make French menus less complicated and for suggesting that each course by served on a different plate.
Once this foundation had been established it was recognized that French cuisine, whose recipes varied a great deal from one region of the country to another, was able to become much more national in character. These “peasants’ dishes” which had previously only been prepared and eaten by the poor was turned into haute cuisine. The careful substitution of ingredients was the key to the change. Many chefs simply added more expensive ingredients in place of the simple ones that the peasants had used. For example, they often replaced cheap wine with one of higher quality.
It is not a surprise that in the 1920s the growing popularity of French cuisine saw the rise of the peasant dish coq au van which is simply a chicken stewed in wine. It was an ancient dish and some legends even claim that it had been prepared for Caesar when he conquered France. But it did not become a staple dish for fine dining restaurants as well as the peasants until the 1920s.
Le Guide Culinaire, a recipe book that was originally published in 1903 incorporated many of the basic principles of French cooking. For example, it encouraged the use of local, fresh ingredients. The book included advanced techniques for preparation and how to tweak ancient recipes into modern haute cuisine.
In the 1920s, the French food that was being prepared meant that much of the regional diversity was melded into a single culinary theme. This is testimony to the successful combination of modern efficiency and tradition.