Auguste Escoffier is considered the “chef of kings and king of chefs” by many people; this is because he was one of the greatest modern chefs having changed the outlook of not only French cuisine but cuisine in general.
Escoffier was born on October 28, 1846, in a small village called Villeneuve-Loubet, near the city of Nice, France (Kenneth, 2002). His parents were Jean-Baptiste and Madeleine Escoffier. His father was a blacksmith. Escoffier grew up in a very joyful family surrounding. Escoffier even once dreamed of becoming a sculptor, but at the age of 13, those dreams were faded away when he was sent to Nice.
Escoffier’s cooking career began when he was 13 years old; when he was sent to work at his uncle’s restaurant in Nice, France (Auguste). While working for his uncle, Escoffier learned many things about cooking and the restaurant industry. At the age of 19, Escoffier left his uncle’s restaurant in Nice for another apprenticeship in Paris, France (Auguste). While there the Franco-Prussian war began. Escoffier enlisted and served as an army chef. During this time of duty Escoffier became well acquainted with canning; Escoffier undertook an in-depth study of canning and the techniques for preserving foods such as meats and vegetables. He used this knowledge later in life (Auguste).
After his time with the army, Escoffier returned to Paris to resume his career as a chef. While there, he built an illustrious reputation for himself. The fact that he was a chef of notable rank that served for the public directly raised his popularity; especially considering that most great chefs at the time strictly worked only for royalty, nobility, or private clubs (Biography).
It was not until Escoffier met Cesar Ritz that his career really took off. They had both met while Escoffier was running the kitchen of the Hotel National in Lucerne, Switzerland. The two men created a great bond and they both went on to work at the Savoy Hotel in London. At the Savoy, Escoffier created many famous dishes, including the Peche Melba, named after a famous Australian singer at the time, Nellie Melba (Auguste). In 1898, both Escoffier and Ritz opened a hotel of their own, The Ritz in Paris, France. A year later in 1899, they opened The Carlton in London. Unfortunately, due to a nervous breakdown Ritz had in 1901, Escoffier was left to run The Carlton himself. Escoffier ran The Carlton until 1919, shortly after Ritz’s death. It was also during this time that Escoffier learned about the practice of the a la carte menu (Biography).
In 1935, Escoffier died at the age 88 shortly after his wife; he buried in the village he was born in, Villeneuve-Loubet (Biography). During his lifetime, Escoffier wrote many books and won many awards. One of his most important books, “Le Guide Culinaire” is a staple in learning French Cuisine (Biography). What made Escoffier so great was not just his impact on the culinary world, but that he persuaded other endeavors as well. He was very philanthropic and created many programs and organizations to help feed the hungry and provide financial assistance to retired chefs. This led him to being awarded the “Legion d’Honneur” in 1919, being the first chef to receive this honor (Biography).
It must also be noted, that before Escoffier, French cuisine was overly complicated and over the top, disguising the ingredients in dishes. Escoffier brought a new outlook to the industry. To simplify the art of cooking, Escoffier eliminated grandiose displays of food; cut back on the number of courses served during a meal, and emphasized the usages of lighter sauces and seasonal foods (Biography). He was also a firm believer in sanitation and organization in the kitchen. The impact Escoffier made not only in French Cuisine but also in the world is tremendous, his greatness can be summed up by a quote from Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, “I am the Emperor of Germany, but you are the emperor of chefs.”
“Auguste Escoffier.” World Culinary Institute. 2008. World Culinary Institute. 3 Dec 2008 . “Biography : Auguste Escoffier.” The Auguste Escoffier Society. 2008. Escoffier Society. 3 Dec 2008 . James, Kenneth. Escoffier The King of Chefs. 1st. New York: Hambledon and London, 2002.