10 Chefs Who Changed the Way We Eat (Slideshow)
May 28, 2014
Long before Nobu and Keller, these chefs created fine dining as we know it
Wikimedia Commons/ Borg Queen
Wikimedia Commons/ Borg Queen
Born around the year 1500, Scappi was the personal chef to popes Pius IV and V. In his seminal cookbook Opera dell'arte del cucinare he not only listed about 1,000 recipes for popular Renaissance-era dishes, he also described hundreds of cooking techniques and tools, shows the first published picture of a fork, and even declared Parmiggiano-Reggiano the finest cheese on earth.
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Massialot, who lived from 1660 to 1733, served as chef de cuisine for various high-ranking Frenchmen, including Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. He’s best known for his Nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois, which appeared in several volumes from 1691 to 1734. In the book he not only laid out recipes for the meals he prepared for royals, but he was also the first to alphabetize recipes, and both meringues and crème brûlée made their first appearances in the book.
Wikimedia Commons/ Rainer Zenz
One of the first internationally renowned “celebrity chefs,” Carême lived from 1784 – 1833, and was one of the first chefs to practice what’s known as grande cuisine, a grand and luxurious style of cooking favored by the wealthy. He got his start constructing extremely elaborate centerpieces out of sugar and pastry, which caught the attention of the Parisian elites (including Napoleon), and as private chef to French diplomat and gourmand Talleyrand he famously crafted a whole year’s worth of menus without repeating any dishes, using only seasonal produce. He also served as chef de cuisine for George IV in London, Tsar Alexander I in St. Petersburg, and banker James Mayer Rothschild in Paris. He published nine cookbooks that laid out not only hundreds of elaborate and ornate recipes, but also how to organize kitchens and set a table. He’s also been credited with inventing the chef’s hat, classified sauces into groups, ushered in Russian-style service (serving dishes in the order printed on a menu instead of all at once), and is regarded as the father of haute-cuisine.
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Soyer was the most celebrated chef in Victorian England. While chef at London’s Reform Club he introduced the concept of cooking with gas ovens and burners, was the first to use refrigerators cooled with cold water, and introduced ovens with adjustable temperatures. He prepared a feast for 2,000 guests there after Queen Victoria’s 1838 coronation, and his lamb cutlets are still on the menu.
He was also one of the first fine dining chefs to turn his attention to feeding the masses. He essentially invented the concept of the soup kitchen to help victims of the Great Irish Famine, advised the army on cooking during the Crimean War, invented a tabletop stove that could be used just about anywhere, and published a book in 1845 geared toward ordinary folks, A Shilling Cookery Book for the People.
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A protégé of Carême, Dugléré served as chef de cuisine to the Rothschild family, managed the Palais-Royal’s renowned Les Frères Provençaux, and in 1866 became head chef at Paris’s most famous restaurant of the 1800s, Café Anglais. While he’s one of the few renowned French chefs who didn’t publish any works, he’s remembered for being the chef behind the fabled Dinner of the Three Emperors in 1867, and his most famous dish is Pommes Anna, a layered dish comprised of sliced potatoes and a whole lot of butter. He’s also one of a handful of chefs credited with inventing Tournedos Rossini, filet mignon topped with foie gras. Today, a dish served “a la Dugléré” means that it’s garnished with shallots, onions, and tomatoes.
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This Swiss-born chef is one of the most famous names in French gastronomy along with Carême and Escoffier, and is perhaps best known for his four-volume Dictionnaire universel de cuisine pratique, still considered to be one of the definitive culinary dictionaries. He also launched a culinary journal that published recipes from other chefs and advocated applying science to cooking, the forerunner of molecular gastronomy; was the first to suggest that culinary competitions be held (and organized the first one in 1878); founded a chefs’ union; and later advocated for “hygienic,” healthy cooking for vitality and a long life.
Wikimedia Commons/ Josette
While Ranhofer was a Frenchman, he’s best known for the work he did in America, specifically at the New York’s legendary Delmonico’s. He was head chef at the hugely influential restaurant from 1862 to 1876 and from 1879 to 1896, and in 1894 he published The Epicurean, a 1,000 page cookbook that’s on par with Escoffier’s finest work. He usually named his dishes after famous or influential people he cooked for, and he invented the dishes that made the restaurant famous; the one best-remembered is Lobster Newberg. He also popularized baked Alaska, and introduced New Yorkers to the avocado in 1895.
Wikimedia Commons/ Mike Hayes
Probably the most renowned and famous chef in history, Escoffier was France’s leading chef in the early years of the 20th century. He’s most renowned for simplifying the ornate French dishes that Carême had codified, and essentially inventing “modern” French cuisine, the kind that we think of when we go to an old-school French restaurant. He laid out the recipes for the five mother sauces, published Le Guide Culinaire, which is still in active use in cooking schools all around the world, and by introducing organized discipline to his kitchens (most famously at the Savoy Hotel in London), he elevated cooking to a respectable profession. He invented hundreds of dishes, but today his best-known are Peach Melba, Cherries Jubilee, and Dauphine Potatoes. He also invented “a la carte” dining (ordering individual dishes off of a menu), turned kitchens into the assembly lines they are today, and lobbied to make it legal for women to dine in public.
Chef/ restaurateur Fernand Point is still widely regarded to be the “father of modern French cuisine.” At his revolutionary restaurant La Pyramide, which opened after WWI just outside Lyon, France, he essentially invented nouvelle cuisine as we know it, complete with its lightly thickened sauces, baby vegetables, and simple preparations of whatever the freshest produce was that day. His trademark dishes, which took years to perfect, include foie gras en brioche, gratin of crayfish tails, and salade dèlice. He trained some of the 20th century’s leading French chefs, including Paul Bocuse, Roger Verge, and Jean and Pierre Troisgros.
Oliver lived from 1909 to 1990, and for more than 35 years he was the chef and owner of Paris’ Le Grand Véfour, one of France’s great restaurants. He’s best known for shunning the nouvelle cuisine style, preferring the rich fare of his native Gascony. He cooked for just about every celebrity and statesman of the day at his restaurant, and in 1954 he earned his restaurant three Michelin stars. He later hosted a popular cooking show on television.