Basic precepts Food for Thought: Auguste Escoffier: Basic precepts
By Southern (Southern) on Friday, February 26, 1999 - 08:17 pm: Edit

"Indeed, stock is everything in cooking, at least in French cooking. Without it, nothing can be done. If one's stock is good, what remains of the work is easy; if, on the other hand, it is bad or merely mediocre, it is quite hopeless to expect anything approaching a satisfactory result ... In the matter of stock it is, above all, necessary to have a sufficient quantity of the finest materials at one's disposal. Every cook knows this, and any master or mistress of a house who stints in this respect forfeits the right to make any remark whatsoever to the chef concerning his work ... It is just as absurd to exact excellent cooking from a chef whom one provides with defective or scanty goods, as to hope to obtain wine from a bottled decoction of logwood." Auguste Escoffier, "Escoffier's Basic Elements of Fine Cookery, Including Sauces and Garnishes" (NY: Crescent Books, Inc, 1941), pp. 1 - 2.

By Anonymous on Wednesday, March 10, 1999 - 09:44 pm: Edit

A journalist had come to interview (César) Ritz and Escoffier before the opening of the hotel (i.e.: the Hôtel Ritz, Place Verdôme, Paris in 1898). Seeing the stoves where coke and wood fires blazed, and the kitchen utensils of dazzling red copper, the journalist exclaimed, “What, no gas or electricity?” Escoffier replied that the only gas ring in the kitchen was used to maintain le feu eternel -- a huge cauldron containing boiling water designed to keep the plates warm. He pointed out the electric lamps, placed just above the stoves, and the tables.

“Gas and electricity have their uses in the kitchen, but, as you see, those uses are limited,” replied Escoffier, who began to explain gently and patiently that a beefsteak could never be well grilled nor a chicken or leg of lamb well roasted by any other means than natural heat from burning wood and coke.

“And the utensils you use,” continued the journalist, “I expected to find the new American metal, aluminum, and all I see is iron and copper ... “

Escoffier answered without further comment: “Aluminum and enamel are used in kitchens where manpower is wanting. As that is not the case here, we aim only at perfection of cuisine.” One should not assume that Escoffier was an obstinate opponent of progress in modern techniques: he introduced innovations only after careful consideration. His approach was that of the chef whose primary aim was a faultless cuisine.

SOURCE: Eugene Herbodeau and Paul Thalamas, Georges Auguste Escoffier (London: Practical Press Ltd, 1955)

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