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Monday, 17 June 2013

 Welcome to the blog!

Hello and welcome to my blog! I hope to use this space to periodically share information that I have come across while completing my thesis. I am researching the development of the brigade de cuisine in royal and noble households in France and England between the years 1250-1650. "Brigade de cuisine" is a term used by cooks and scholars to describe departmentalization of culinary work that is usually associated with large foodservice establishments. The term refers to the system of maintaining separate work areas within professional kitchens, each staffed by its own hierarchy of cooks. 

At its most senior levels the brigade de cuisine is led by an executive chef who manages the overall running of all aspects of the kitchen. The executive chef relies on the work of various chefs de cuisine (kitchen chef) and sous chefs ("under" chef) to lead the "hands-on" operations of various kitchen departments. Working under the various chefs de cuisine and sous chefs are chefs de parti, first cooks, second cooks, third cooks, apprentices (commis), prep cooks and so on.

Escoffier (seated) in 1930
In the early twentieth century, Escoffier (d. 1935) came to be associated with the brigade de cuisine. Under Escoffier, the kitchens at the Ritz Hotel in London required many dozens of different workers and rooms, some of which included areas for roasting meats (rôtisseur), fish cookery (poissonnier), entrée cookery (entremetier), vegetable prep and cookery (legumier), soup cookery (potager), sauce cookery (saucier), cold preparations (garde manger), pastry (pâtissier), ice-carver and iced dessert cook (glacier) and so on. 

Somehow the entirety of this system has come to be attributed to Escoffier, although this is an incorrect attribution. Royal and noble households used a very similar arrangement to Escoffier's brigade de cuisine during the late medieval and early modern periods. The brigade de cuisine was the result of large domestic, monastic and collegiate foundations needing to feed extensive residential populations with records attesting to its use as early as the late thirteenth century.

This blog will be devoted to two things: presenting research that dismantles what I call the "Escoffier myth" or the notion that Escoffier was the father of the brigade de cuisine.  Secondly, I hope to present ancillary information surrounding culinary professionals, 1250-1650, gathered from archival, transcribed primary and historiographic research.

I hope anyone with an interest in culinary history might enjoy this blog with a special welcome to cooks, chefs and culinary professionals seeking to understand more about their own traditions. This will always be a work in progress, so please excuse, but I would like thank you for taking time to look through my blog and I hope you enjoy!

The Tudor kitchens at Hampton Court Palace, Richmond U.K.. Henry VIII extended the kitchens in 1529 leaving a kitchen comprised of 55 rooms covering 3,000 square feet. Staffed by 200 people when the court was in residence, the kitchen at Hampton Court provided 600 meals twice a day.
Photo credits: Wikimedia commons (unknown) & Andrew Trimble.
By: Ryan Whibbs

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