is a style of cooking derived from the nation of France
. It evolved from centuries of social and political change. The Middle Ages
brought lavish banquets
to the upper class with ornate, heavily seasoned food prepared by chefs such as Guillaume Tirel
. The era of the French Revolution
, however, saw a move toward fewer spices
and more liberal usage of herbs
and refined techniques, beginning with François Pierre La Varenne
and further developing with Napoleon Bonaparte
and other dignitaries, Marie-Antoine Carême
French cuisine was codified in the 20th century by Georges Auguste Escoffier to become the modern version of haute cuisine. Escoffier's major work, however, left out much of the regional character to be found in the provinces of France. Gastro-tourism and the Guide Michelin helped to bring people to the countryside during the 20th century and beyond, to sample this rich bourgeois and peasant cuisine of France. Basque cuisine has also been a great influence over the cuisine in the southwest of France.
Ingredients and dishes vary by region. There are many significant regional dishes that have become both national and regional. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day. Cheese and wine are also a major part of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally with their many variations and Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) (regulated appellation) laws.
French cuisine has evolved extensively over the centuries. Starting in the Middle Ages
, a unique and creative national cuisine began forming. Various social movements, political movements, and the work of great chefs came together to create this movement. Through the years the styles of French cuisine have been given different names, and have been codified by various master-chefs. During their lifetimes these chefs have been held in high regard for their contributions to the culture of the country. The national cuisine developed primarily in the city of Paris with the chefs to French royalty, but eventually it spread throughout the country and was even exported overseas.
In French medieval cuisine, banquets were common among the aristocracy. Multiple courses would be prepared, but served in a style called service en confusion, or all at once. Food was generally eaten by hand, meats being sliced off large pieces held between the thumb and two fingers. The sauces of the time were highly seasoned and thick, and heavily flavored mustards were used. Pies were also a common banquet item, with the crust serving primarily as a container, rather than as food itself, and it was not until the very end of the Late Middle Ages that the shortcrust pie was developed. Meals often ended with an issue de table, which later evolved into the modern dessert, and typically consisted of dragees (in the Middle Ages meaning spiced lumps of hardened sugar or honey), aged cheese and spiced wine, such as hypocras.
The ingredients of the time varied greatly according to the seasons and the church calendar, and many items were preserved with salt, spices, honey, and other preservatives. Late spring, summer, and fall afforded abundance, while winter meals were more sparse. Livestock was slaughtered at the beginning of winter. Beef was often salted, while pork was salted and smoked. Bacon and sausages would be smoked in the chimney, while the tongue and hams were brined and dried. Cucumbers would be brined as well, while greens would be packed in jars with salt. Fruits, nuts and root vegetables would be boiled in honey for preservation. Whale, dolphin and porpoise were considered to be fish, so during Lent the salted meats of these sea mammals were eaten.
Artificial freshwater ponds (often called stews) held carp, pike, tench, bream, eel, and other fish. Poultry was kept in special yards, with pigeon and squab being reserved for the elite. Game was highly prized, but relatively rare, and included venison, wild boar, hare, rabbit, and birds. Kitchen gardens provided herbs including some such as tansy, rue, pennyroyal, and hyssop which are rarely used today. Spices were treasured and very expensive at that time — they included pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and mace. Some spices used then, but no longer today in French cuisine are cubebs, long pepper (both from vines similar to black pepper), grains of paradise, and galengale. Sweet-sour flavors were commonly added to dishes by the use of vinegars and verjus combined with sugar (for the affluent) or honey. A very common form of food preparation was to finely cook, pound and strain mixtures into fine pastes and mushes, something believed to be highly beneficial to the ability to make use of nutrients.
Visual display was highly prized. Brilliant colors were obtained by the addition of, for example, juices from spinach and the green part of leeks. Yellow came from saffron or egg yolk, while red came from sunflower, and purple came from Crozophora tinctoria or Heliotropium europaeum. Gold and silver leaf were placed on food surfaces and brushed with egg whites. Elaborate and showy dishes were the result, such as tourte parmerienne which was a pastry dish made to look like a castle with chicken-drumstick turrets coated with gold leaf. One of the grandest showpieces of the time was roast swan or peacock sewn back into its skin with feathers intact; the feet and beak being gilded with gold. To deal with the fact that both these birds are tough, stringy, and of a rather unpleasant flavor, the skin and feathers could be kept and filled with the cooked, minced and seasoned flesh of tastier birds, like goose or chicken.
The most well known French chef of the Middle Ages was Guillaume Tirel, also known as Taillevent. Taillevent worked in numerous royal kitchens during the 14th century. His first position was as a kitchen boy in 1326. He was chef to Philip VI, then the Dauphin who was son of John II. The Dauphin became King Charles V of France in 1364, with Taillevent as his chief cook. His career spanned sixty-six years, and upon his death he was buried in grand style between his two wives. His tombstone represents him in armor, holding a shield with three cooking pots, marmites, on it.
During the ancien régime Paris
was the central hub of culture and economic activity, and as such the most highly skilled culinary craftsmen were to be found there. Markets in Paris such as Les Halles
, la Mégisserie
, those found along Rue Mouffetard
, and similar smaller versions in other cities were very important to the distribution of food. Those that gave French produce its characteristic identity were regulated by the guild
system, which developed in the Middle Ages
. In Paris, the guilds were regulated by city government as well as by the French crown. A guild restricted those in a given branch of the culinary industry to operate only within that field.
There were two basic groups of guilds — first, those that supplied the raw materials; butchers, fishmongers, grain merchants, and gardeners. The second group were those that supplied prepared foods; bakers, pastrycooks, saucemakers, poulterers, and caterers. There were also guilds that offered both raw materials and prepared food, such as the charcutiers and rôtisseurs (purveyors of roasted meat dishes). They would supply cooked meat pies and dishes as well as raw meat and poultry. This caused issue with butchers and poulterers, who sold the same raw materials. The guilds also served as a training ground for those within the industry. The degrees of assistant-cook, full-fledged cook and master chef were conferred. Those who reached the level of master chef were of considerable rank in their individual industry, and enjoyed a high level of income as well as economic and job security. At times, those who worked in the royal kitchens did fall under the guild hierarchy, but it was necessary to find them a parallel appointment based on their skills after leaving the service of the royal kitchens. This was not uncommon as the Paris cooks' guild regulations allowed for this movement.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, French cuisine assimilated many new food items from the New World. Although they were slow to be adopted, records of banquets show Catherine de' Medici serving sixty-six turkeys at one dinner. The dish called cassoulet has its roots in the New World discovery of haricot beans, which are central to the dish's creation but had not existed outside of the New World until its exploration by Christopher Columbus.
17th Century - Early 18th Century
France's famous Haute cuisine
— literally "high cuisine" — has its foundations during the 17th century with a chef named La Varenne
. As author of works such as Cvisinier françois
, he is credited with publishing the first true French cookbook. His book includes the earliest known reference to roux
using pork fat. The book contained two sections, one for meat days, and one for fasting
. His recipes marked a change from the style of cookery known in the Middle Ages, to new techniques aimed at creating somewhat lighter dishes, and more modest presentations of pies as individual pastries and turnovers. La Varenne also published a book on pastry in 1667 entitled Le Parfait confitvrier
(republished as Le Confiturier françois
) which similarly updated and codified the emerging haute cuisine standards for desserts and pastries.
Another chef, François Massialot, wrote Le Cuisinier roïal et bourgeois in 1691, during the reign of Louis XIV. The book contains menus served to the royal courts in 1690. Massialot worked mostly as a freelance cook, and was not employed by any particular household. Massialot and many other royal cooks received special privileges by association with the French royalty. They were not subject to the regulation of the guilds, therefore they could cater weddings and banquets without restriction. His book is the first to list recipes alphabetically, perhaps a forerunner of the first culinary dictionary. It is in this book that a marinade is first seen in print, with one type for poultry and feathered game while a second is for fish and shellfish. No quantities are listed in the recipes, which suggests that Massialot was writing for trained cooks.
The successive updates of Le Cuisinier roïal et bourgeois include important refinements such as adding a glass of wine to fish stock. Definitions were also added to the 1703 edition. The 1712 edition, retitled Le Nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois, was increased to two volumes, and was written in a more elaborate style with extensive explanations of technique. Additional smaller preparations are included in this edition as well, leading to lighter preparations, and adding a third course to the meal. Ragout, a stew still central to French cookery, makes its first appearance as a single dish in this edition as well; prior to that it was listed as a garnish.
Late 18th century - 19th century
was integral to the expansion of French cuisine, because it effectively abolished the guilds. This meant that any one chef could now produce and sell any culinary item he wished. Marie-Antoine Carême
was born in 1784, five years before the onset of the Revolution
. He spent his younger years working at a pâtisserie
until being discovered by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
who would later cook for the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte
. Prior to his employment with Talleyrand, Carême had become known for his pièces montèes
, which were extravagant constructions of pastry and sugar architecture.
More important to Carême's career was his contribution to the refinement of French cuisine. The basis for his style of cooking came from his sauces, which he named mother sauces. Often referred to as fonds, meaning foundations, these base sauces, espagnole, velouté, and béchamel are still known today. Each of these sauces would be made in large quantities in his kitchen as they were then capable of forming the basis of multiple derivatives. Carême had over one hundred sauces in his repertoire. Also, in his writings, soufflés appear for the first time. Although many of his preparations today seem extremely extravagant, it must be remembered that he simplified and codified an even more complex cuisine that had existed beforehand. Central to his codification of the cuisine were Le Maître d'hôtel français (1822), Le Cuisinier parsien (1828) and L'Art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle (1833-5).
Late 19th century - Early 20th century
Georges Auguste Escoffier
is commonly acknowledged as the central figure to the modernization of haute cuisine
and organizing what would become the national cuisine of France. His influence began with the rise of some of the great hotels in Europe and America
during the 1880s - 1890s. The Savoy Hotel
owned by César Ritz
was an early hotel Escoffier worked at, but much of his influence came during his management of the kitchens in the Carlton
from 1898 until 1921. He created a system of parties
called the brigade system
, which separated the professional kitchen into five separate stations. These five stations included the garde manger
that prepared cold dishes; the entremettier
prepared soups, vegetables and desserts; the rôtisseur
prepared roasts, grilled and fried dishes; the saucier
prepared sauces; and the pâtissier
prepared all pastry items. This system meant that instead of one person preparing a dish on their own, now multiple cooks would prepare the different components for the dish. An example used is oeufs au plat Meyerbeer
, the prior system would take up to fifteen minutes to prepare the dish, while in the new system, the eggs would be prepared by the entremettier
, kidney grilled by the rôtisseur
, truffle sauce made by the saucier
and thus the dish could be prepared in a much shorter time and served quickly in the popular restaurants.
Escoffier also simplified and organized the modern menu and structure of the meal. He published a series of articles in professional journals which outlined the sequence and then finally published his Livre des menus in 1912. This type of service embraced the service à la russe (serving meals in separate courses on individual plates) which Félix Urbain Dubois had made popular in the 1860s. Escoffier's largest contribution was the publication of Le Guide Culinaire in 1903, which established the fundamentals of French cookery. The book was a collaboration with Philéas Gilbert, E. Fetu, A. Suzanne, B. Reboul, Ch. Dietrich, A. Caillat and others. The significance of this is to illustrate the universal acceptance by multiple high-profile chefs to this new style of cooking.
Le Guide Culinaire deemphasized the use of heavy sauces and leaned toward lighter fumets which are the essence of flavor taken from fish, meat and vegetables. This style of cooking looked to create garnishes, sauces that's function was to add to the flavor of the dish, not hide flavors which the heavy sauces and ornate garnishes of the past had. Escoffier took inspiration for his work from personal recipes in addition to recipes from Carême, Dubois and ideas from Taillevent's Viander, which had a modern version published in 1897. A second source for recipes came from existing peasant dishes that were translated into the refined techniques of haute cuisine. Expensive ingredients would replace the common ingredients making the dishes much less humble. The third source of recipes was Escoffier himself who invented many new dishes, such as pêche Melba and crêpes Suzette. Escoffier updated Le Guide Culinaire four times during his lifetime, noting in the foreword to the book’s first edition that even with its 5,000 recipes the book should not be considered an “exhaustive” text and that even if it was at the point when he wrote the book, “it would no longer be so tomorrow, because progress marches on each day.
Mid 20th century - Late 20th century
The term nouvelle cuisine has been used many times in the history of French cuisine. This description was seen in the 1740s of the cuisine from Vincent La Chapelle, François Marin and Menon and even during the 1880s and 1890s to describe Escoffier's cooking. The term came up again however during the 1960s used by two authors Henri Gault and Christian Millau to describe the cooking of Paul Bocuse, Jean Troisgro and Pierre Troisgro, Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé and Raymond Oliver. These chefs were working toward rebelling from the "orthodoxy" of Escoffier's cuisine. Some of the chefs were students of Fernand Point at the Pyramide in Vienne and had left to open their own restaurants. Gault and Millau "discovered the formula" contained in ten characteristics of this new style of cooking.
The first characteristic was a rejection of excessive complication in cooking. Second, the cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables and pâtés was greatly reduced in an attempt to preserve the natural flavors. Steaming was an important trend from this characteristic. The third characteristic was that the cuisine was made with the freshest possible ingredients. Fourth, large menus were abandoned in favor of shorter menus. Fifth, strong marinades for meat and game ceased to be used. Sixth, they stopped using heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel thickened with flour based roux, in favor of seasoning their dishes with fresh herbs, quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar. Seventh, they used regional dishes for inspiration instead of haute cuisine dishes. Eighth, new techniques were embraced and modern equipment was often used, Bocuse even used microwave ovens. Ninth, the chefs paid close attention to the dietary needs of their guests through their dishes. Tenth and finally, the chefs were extremely inventive and created new combinations and pairings.
Some have speculated that a contributor to nouvelle cuisine was World War II when animal protein was in short supply during the German occupation. No matter what the origins were, by the mid-1980s some food writers stated that the style of cuisine had reached exhaustion and many chefs began returning to the haute cuisine style of cooking, although much of the lighter presentations and new techniques remained.
Common dishes found on a national level
There are many dishes that are considered part of the nation's national cuisine today. Many come from haute cuisine
in the fine-dining realm, but others are regional dishes that have become a norm across the country. Below are lists of a few of the more common dishes available in France
on a national level.
French regional cuisine is characterized by its extreme diversity and style. Traditionally, each region of France has its own distinctive cuisine accepted by both its bourgeoisie and peasants and other general citizenry of the regions.
Paris • Ile-de-France
and Ile-de-France are central regions where almost anything from the country is available as all train lines meet in the city. Over 5,000 restaurants exist in Paris and almost any cuisine can be had here. High-quality Michelin Guide
rated restaurants proliferate here.
Champagne • Lorraine• Alsace
Game and ham are popular in Champagne
as well as the special sparkling wine simply known as Champagne
. Fine fruit preserves are known from Lorraine
as well as the famous Quiche Lorraine. Alsace
is heavily influenced by the German food culture as such the wines and beers made in the area are very similar to the style of bordering Germany.
Nord • Pas de Calais • Picardy • Normandy • Brittany
The coastline supplies many crustaceans
, sea bass
. Normandy has top quality seafood like scallops
, while Brittany
has a supply of lobster, crayfish and mussels. Normandy
is also home to a large population of apple trees, which is used in dishes as well as cider
. The northern areas of this region especially Nord
, grow ample amounts of wheat, sugar beet and chicory. Thick stews are found often in these northern areas as well. The produce of these northern regions is also considered some of the best in the country including cauliflower and artichokes. Buckwheat grows widely in Brittany as well and is used in the region's galettes
, which is where this dish originated.
The Loire Valley • Central France
High quality fruits come from the Loire Valley
and central France, including cherries grown for the liqueur Guignolet
and the Belle Angevine
pears. The strawberries and melons are also of high quality. Fish are seen in the cuisine as well as wild game, lamb, calves, Charolais cattle
fowl, and high quality goat cheeses. Young vegetables are used often in the cuisine as are the specialty mushrooms of the region, champignons de Paris
. Vinegars from Orléans
are a specialty ingredient used as well.
Burgundy • Franche-Comté
is well known for its wines. Pike
, river crabs, snails
, poultry from Bresse
beef or game, redcurrants
, honey cake, Chaource
and Epoisses cheese
are all specialties of the local cuisine of both Burgundy and Franche-Comté
and Crème de Cassis
are popular liquors made from the blackcurrants. Dijon mustard is also a specialty of Burgundy cuisine. Oils are used in the cooking here, types include nut oils and rapeseed
oil. Smoked meat and specialties are produced in the Jura
Lyon • Rhône-Alpes
Fruit and young vegetables are popular in the cuisine from the Rhône valley
. Poultry from Bresse
, guinea fowels from Drôme and fish from the Dombes lakes and mountain in Rhône-Alpes
streams are key to the cuisine as well. Lyon
supply high quality sausages while the Alpine
regions supply their specialty cheeses like Abondance
. Mères lyonnaises
are a particular type of restaurateur relegated to this region that are the regions bistro. Celebrated chefs from this region include Fernand Point
, Paul Bocuse
, the Troisgros brothers and Alain Chapel. The Chartreuse Mountains
are in this region, and the famous liquor Chartreuse
is produced in a monastery there.
Poitou-Charentes • Limousin
Oysters come from the Oléron-Marennes basin while mussels come from the Bay of Aiguillon. High quality produce comes from the regions hinterland. Goat cheese is of high quality in this region and in the Vendée
is grazing ground for Parthenaise
cattle, while poultry is raised in Challans
purportedly produce the best butter and cream in France. Cognac
is also produced in the region along the Charente River
is home to the high quality Limousin cattle
as well as high quality sheep. The woodlands offer game, high quality mushrooms. The southern area around Brive
draws its cooking influence from Périgord
to produce a robust cuisine.
Bordeaux • Perigord • Gascony • Basque Country
is well known for its wine, as it is throughout the southwest of France with certain areas offering specialty grapes for its wines. Fishing is popular in the region for the cuisine, especially the Basque
deep-sea fishing of the North Sea
, trapping in the Garonne
and stream fishing in the Pyrenees
. The Pyrenees also support top quality lamb such as the "Agneau de Pauillac"
as well as high quality sheep cheeses. Beef cattle in the region include the Blonde d'Aquitaine
, Boeuf de Challose
, and Garonnaise
. High quality free-range chickens, turkey
prevail in the region as well. Gascony
cuisines includes high quality patés
. This is one of the regions famous for its production of foie gras
or fattened goose or duck liver. The cuisine of the region is often heavy and farm based. Armagnac
is also from this region as are high quality prunes from Agen
Toulouse • Quercy • Aveyron
in this region offers high quality poultry, while La Montagne Noire and Lacaune area offers high quality hams and dry sausages. White corn is planted heavily in the area both for use in fattening the ducks and geese for foie gras
as well as the production of millas
, a cornmeal porridge. Haricot beans
are also grown in this area, which are central to the dish Cassoulet
. The finest sausage in France is commonly acknowledged to be the saucisse de Toulouse
, which also finds its way into their version of Cassoulet
. The Cahors
area produces a high quality specialty "black wine" as well as high-quality truffles
and mushrooms. This region also produces milk-feed lamb. Unpasteurized ewe
's milk is used to produce the Roquefort
, while Cantal
is produced in Laguiole
. The Salers
cattle produce quality milk for cheese as well as beef items. The volcanic soils create flinty cheeses and superb lentils. Mineral waters are produced in high volume in this region as well.
Roussillon • Languedoc • Cévennes
Restaurants are popular in the area known as Le Midi
. Oysters come from the Etang de Thau, to be served in the restaurants of Bouzigues, Meze, and Sète
. Mussels are commonly seen here in addition to fish specialties of Sète, Bourride
and Rouille de seiche
. Also in the Languedoc jambon cru
, sometimes known as jambon de montagne
is produced. High quality Roquefort
comes from the brebis
(sheep) on the Larzac
plateau. The Les Cévennes
area offers mushrooms, chestnuts, berries, honey, lamb, game, sausages, pâtés
and goat cheeses. Catalan
influence can be seen in the cuisine here with dishes like brandade
made from a purée of dried cod
which is then wrapped in mangold
leaves. Snails are also plentiful and are prepared in a specific Catalan
style known as a cargolade
. Wild boar
can also be found in the more mountainous regions of the Midi
Provence • Côte d'Azur
and Côte d'Azur
region is rich in quality citrus, vegetables and fruits and herbs, the region is one of the largest supplier of all these ingredients in France. The region also produces the largest amount of olives and thus creates superb olive oil
is used in many dishes found in the Haute Provence
. Other important herbs in the cuisine include thyme
, and bay leaf
Honey is another prized ingredient in the region. Seafood proliferates in this area in all areas. Goat cheeses, air-dried sausage, lamb, and beef are also popular here. Garlic and anchovies can be seen in many of the sauces in the region and Pastis
can be found in many of the bistros of the area. The cuisine uses a large amount of vegetables for lighter preparations. Truffles are commonly seen in Provence during the winter. Rice can be found growing in the Camargue
, which is the most-northerly rice growing area in Europe, with Camargue red rice
being a specialty.
proliferate on the island of Corsica
, and kids and lamb are used to prepare dishes such as stufato
and roasts. Cheeses are also produced with brocciu
being the most popular. Chestnuts
, growing in the Castagniccia forest, are used to produce flour which in turn is used to make bread
. The forest also provides acorns which are used to feed the pigs which provide most of the protein for the island's cuisine. As Corsica is an island, fresh fish and seafood are common in the cuisine as well. The island's pork is used to make fine hams, sausage and other unique items including coppa
(dried rib cut), lonzu
(dried pork fillet), figatella
(a dried sausage) salcietta
(smoked and dried liverwurst) and prisuttu
(farmer's ham). Clementines
(hold an AOC designation), Nectarines
are grown there and candied citron
is used in nougats
, cakes, while and the aforementioned brocciu and chestnuts are also used in desserts. Corsica also offers a variety of fruit wines and liqueurs, including Cap Corse
, liquer de myrte
, vins de fruit
, and eau-de-vie de châtaigne
Specialties by season
French cuisine varies according to the season. In summer, salads and fruit dishes are popular because they're refreshing and the produce is inexpensive and abundant. Greengrocers prefer to sell their fruit and vegetables at lower prices if needed, rather than see them rot in the heat. At the end of summer, mushrooms
become plentiful and appear in stews everywhere in France. The hunting
season starts in September and runs through February. Game of all kinds is eaten, often in very elaborate dishes that celebrate the success of the hunt. Shellfish are at their peak as winter turns to spring, and oysters
appear in restaurants in large quantities.
With the advent of deep-freeze and the air-conditioned hypermarché, these seasonal variations are less marked than hitherto, but they are still observed because in some cases it's the law. Crayfish, for example, have a very short season and it's illegal to take them outside that time. Moreover, they do not survive freezing very well.
French regional cuisines use locally grown vegetables, such as:
Common fruits include:
Meats consumed include:
Eggs are fine quality and often eaten as:
Fish and seafood commonly consumed include:
Herbs and Seasonings vary by region and include:
Fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fish and meat can be purchased either from supermarkets
or specialty shops. Street markets are held on certain days in most localities; some towns have a more permanent covered market enclosing food shops, especially meat and fish retailers. These have better shelter than the periodic street markets.
Structure of meals
Le petit déjeuner (breakfast) is often a quick meal consisting of "tartines" (slices) of buttered french bread, croissants or pain au chocolat (a chocolate filled pastry) along with coffee or tea. Children often drink hot chocolate in bowls along with their breakfast. Breakfast of some kind is always served in cafés opening early in the day.
(lunch) was once a two hour mid-day meal but has recently seen a trend toward the one hour lunch break. In some smaller towns the two hour lunch may still be customary. Sunday lunches are often longer and are taken with the family. Restaurants normally open for lunch at 12:00noon and close at 2:30 pm. Many restaurants close on Saturday and Monday during lunch.
In large cities a majority of working people and students eat their lunch at a corporate or school cafeteria, which normally serve complete meals as described above; it is therefore not usual for students to bring their own lunch food. It is common for white-collar workers to be given lunch vouchers as part of their employee benefits. These can be used in most restaurants, supermarkets and traiteurs; however workers having lunch in this way typically do not eat all three dishes of a traditional lunch due to price and time considerations. In smaller cities and towns, some working people leave their workplaces to return home for lunch, generating four rush hours during the day. Finally, an also popular alternative especially among blue-collar workers is to lunch on a sandwich possibly followed with a dessert; both dishes can be found ready-made at bakeries and supermarkets for budget prices.
(dinner) often consists of three courses, hors d'oeuvre
(introductory course often soup), plat principal
(main course), and a cheese course or dessert, sometimes with a salad offered before the cheese or dessert. Yoghurt may replace the cheese course, while a normal everyday dessert would be fresh fruit. The meal is often accompanied by bread, wine and mineral water
. Wine consumption has been dropping recently in young people. Fruit juice consumption has risen from 25.6% in 1996 to 31.6% in 2002. Main meat courses are often served with vegetables along with rice or pasta. Restaurants often open at 7:30pm for dinner and stop taking orders between the hours of 10:00pm and 11:00 pm. Many restaurants close for dinner on Sundays.
Traditionally, France has been a culture of wine
consumption. While this characteristic has lessened with time, even today, many French people drink wine daily. The consumption of low-quality wines during meals has been greatly reduced. Beer
is especially popular with the young. Other popular alcoholic drinks include pastis
, an aniseed
flavoured beverage drunk diluted with cold water, or cider
The legal alcohol purchase age is 16. Usually, parents tend to prohibit their children from consuming alcohol before these children reach their early teens. Students and young adults are known to drink heavily during parties, but usually drunkenness is not displayed in public. Public consumption of alcohol is legal, but driving under the influence can result in severe penalties.
History of the restaurant
The modern restaurant has its origins in French culture. Prior to the late 18th century, diners who wished to "dine out" would visit their local guild
and have their meal prepared for them. However, guild members were limited to producing whatever their guild registry delegated them to. These guild members offered food in their own homes to steady clientele that appeared day-to-day but at set times. The guest would be offered the meal table d'hôte
, which is a meal offered at a set price with very little choice of dishes, sometimes none at all.
The first steps toward the modern restaurant were locations that offered restorative bouillons, or restaurants — these words being the origin of the name restaurant. This step took place during the 1760s - 1770's. These locations were open at all times of the day, featuring ornate tableware and reasonable prices. These locations were meant more as meal replacements for those who had "lost their appetites and suffered from jaded palates and weak chests.
In 1782 Antoine Beauvilliers, pastry chef to the future Louis XVIII, opened one of the most popular restaurants of the time — the Grande Taverne de Londres — in the arcades of the Palais-Royal. Other restaurants were opened by chefs of the time who were leaving the failing monarchy of France, in the period leading up to the French Revolution. It was these restaurants that expanded upon the limited menus of decades prior, and led to the full restaurants that were completely legalized with the advent of the French Revolution and abolition of the guilds. This and the substantial discretionary income of the French Directory's nouveau riche helped keep these new restaurants in business.
Places to dine out
- Restaurant - Over 5,000 in Paris alone, with varying levels of prices and menus. Open at certain times of the day, and normally closed one day of the week. Patrons select items from a printed menu. Some offer regional menus, while others offer a modern styled menu. By law, a prix-fixe menu must be offered, although high-class restaurants may try to conceal the fact. Few French restaurants cater to vegetarians. The Guide Michelin rates many of the better restaurants in this category.
- Bistro(t) - Often smaller than a restaurant and many times using chalk board or verbal menus. Many feature a regional cuisine. Notable dishes include coq au vin, pot-au-feu, confit de canard, calves' liver and entrecôte.
- Bistrot à Vin - Similar to caberets or tavernes of the past in France. Some offer inexpensive alcoholic drinks, while others take pride in offering a full range of vintage AOC wines. The foods in some are simple, including sausages, ham and cheese, while others offer dishes similar to what can be found in a bistro.
- Bouchon - Found in Lyon, they produce traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, such as sausages, duck pâté or roast pork. The dishes can be quite fatty, and heavily oriented around meat. There are about twenty officially certified traditional bouchons, but a larger number of establishments describing themselves using the term.
- Brasserie - French for brewery, these establishments were created in the 1870s by refugees from Alsace-Lorraine. These establishments serve beer, but most serve wines from Alsace such as Riesling, Sylvaner, and Gewürztraminer. The most popular dishes are Sauerkraut and Seafood dishes. In general, a brasserie is open all day, offering the same menu.
- Café - Primarily locations for coffee and alcoholic drinks. Tables and chairs are usually set outside, and prices marked up somewhat en terrasse. The limited foods sometimes offered include croque-monsieur, salads, moules-frites (mussels and pommes frites) when in season. Cafés often open early in the morning and shut down around nine at night.
- Salon de Thé - These locations are more similar to cafés in the rest of the world. These tearooms often offer a selection of cakes and do not offer alcoholic drinks. Many offer simple snacks, salads, and sandwiches. Teas, hot chocolate, and chocolat à l'ancienne (a popular chocolate drink) offered as well. These locations often open just prior to noon for lunch and then close late afternoon.
- Bar - Based on the American style, many were built at the beginning of the 20th century. These locations serve cocktails, whiskey, pastis and other alcoholic drinks.
- Estaminet - Typical of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, these small bars/restaurants used to be a central place for farmers, mine or textile workers to meet and socialize. Alongside the usual beverages (beers, liquors...), one could order basic regional dishes, as well as play various indoor games. These estaminets almost disappeared, but are now considered a part of Nord-Pas-de-Calais history, and therefore preserved and promoted..
Kitchen and dining room staff
Larger restaurants and hotels in France employ extensive staff and are commonly referred to as either the kitchen brigade
for the kitchen staff or dining room brigade
system for the dining room staff. This system was created by Georges Auguste Escoffier
This structured team system delegates responsibilities to different individuals that specialize in certain tasks. The following is a list of positions held both in the kitchen and dining rooms brigades in France.
- Chef de cuisine (Kitchen chef) - Responsible for overall management of kitchen. They supervise staff, create menus and new recipes with the assistance of the restaurant manager, make purchases of raw food items, trains apprentices and maintains a sanitary and hygiene environment for the preparation of food.
- Sous-chef de cuisine (Deputy kitchen chef) - Receives orders directly from the chef de cuisine for the management of the kitchen and often represents the chef de cuisine when he or she is not present.
- Chef de partie (Senior chef) - Responsible for managing a given station in the kitchen where they specialize in preparing particular dishes. Those that work in a lesser station are commonly referred to as a demi-chef.
- Cuisinier (Cook) - This position is an independent one where they usually prepare specific dishes in a station. They may also be referred to as a cuisinier de partie.
- Commis (Junior cook) - Also works in a specific station, but reports directly to the chef de partie and takes care of the tools for the station.
- Apprenti(e) (Apprentice) - Many times they are students gaining theoretical and practical training in school and work experience in the kitchen. They perform preparatory work and/or cleaning work.
- Plongeur (Dishwasher) - Cleans dishes and utensils and may be entrusted with basic preparatory job.
- Marmiton (Pot and pan washer) - In larger restaurants takes care of all the pots and pans instead of the plongeur.
- Saucier (Saucemaker/Sauté cook) - Prepares sauces, warm hors d'oeuvres, completes meat dishes and in smaller restaurants may work on fish dishes and prepares sautéed items. This is one of the most respected positions in the kitchen brigade.
- Rôtisseur (Roast cook) - Manages a team of cooks that roasts, broils and deep fries dishes.
- Grillardin (Grill cook) - In a larger kitchen this person prepares the grilled foods instead of the rôtisseur.
- Friturier (Fry cook) - In larger kitchens this person prepares fried foods instead of the rôtisseur.
- Poissonnier (Fish cook) - Prepares fish and seafood dishes.
- Entremetier (Entrée preparer) - Prepares soups and other dishes not involving meat or fish, including vegetable dishes and egg dishes.
- Potager (soup cook) - In larger kitchens this person reports to the entremetier and prepares the soups.
- Legumier (Vegetable cook) - In larger kitchen this person also reports to the entremetier and prepares the vegetable dishes.
- Garde manger (Pantry supervisor) - responsible for preparation of cold hors d'oeuvres, prepares salads, organizes large buffet displays and prepares charcuterie items.
- Tournant (Spare hand/ roundsman) - Moves throughout kitchen assisting other positions in kitchen
- Pâtissier (Pastry cook) - Prepares desserts and other meal end sweets and for location without a boulanger also prepares breads and other baked items. They may also prepare pasta for the restaurant.
- Confiseur - Prepares candies and petit fours in larger restaurants instead of the pâtissier.
- Glacier - Prepares frozen and cold desserts in larger restaurants instead of the pâtissier.
- Décorateur - Prepares show pieces and specialty cakes in larger restaurants instead of the pâtissier.
- Boulanger (Baker) - Prepares bread, cakes and breakfast pastries in larger restaurants instead of the pâtissier.
- Boucher (Butcher) - butchers meats, poultry and sometimes fish. May also be in charge of breading meat and fish items.
- Aboyeur (Announcer/ expediter) - Takes orders from dining room and distributes them to the various stations. This position may also be performed by the sous-chef de partie.
- Communard - Prepares the meal served to the restaurant staff.
- Garçon de cuisine - Performs preparatory and auxiliary work for support in larger restaurants.
Dining room brigade
- Directeur de la restauration (General manager) - Oversees economic and administrative duties for all food related business in large hotels or similar facilities including multiple restaurants, bars, catering and other events.
- Directeur de restaurant (Restaurant manager) - Responsible for the operation of the restaurant dining room which includes managing staff, hiring and firing staff, training of staff and economic duties of the such matters. In larger establishments there may be an assistant to this position who would replace this person in their absence.
- Maître d'hotel - Welcomes guests, and seats them at tables. They also supervise the service staff. It is this person that commonly deals with complaints and verifies patron bills.
- Chef de salle - Commonly in charge of service for the full dining room in larger establishments, this position can be combined into the maître d'hotel position.
- Chef de rang - The dining room is separated into sections called rangs. Each rang is supervised by this person to coordinate service with the kitchen.
- Demi-chef de rang or commis de rang - (Back waiter) - Clears plates between courses if there is no commis débarrasseur, fills water glasses and assists the chef de rang.
- Commis débarrasseur - Clears plates between courses and the table at the end of the meal.
- Commis de suite - In larger establishments, this person brings the different courses from the kitchen to the table.
- Chef d'étage (Captain) - Explains the menu to the guest and answers any questions. This person often performs the tableside food preparations. This position may be combined with the chef de rang in smaller establishment.
- Chef de vin or Sommelier (Wine waiter) - Manages wine cellar by purchasing and organizing as well as preparing the wine list. This person also advises the guest on wine choices and serves it. Larger establishments will have a team of sommeliers that are managed by the chef sommelier or chef caviste.
- Serveur de restaurant (Waiter) - This position found in smaller establishments performs the multiple duties of various positions in the larger restaurants in the service of food and drink to the guest.
- Responsable de bar or Chef de bar (Bar manager) - Manages the bar in a restaurant which includes ordering and creating drink menus, they also over see the hiring, training and firing of barmen. Also manages multiple bars in a hotel or other similar establishment.
- Barman (Bartender) - Serves alcoholic drinks to guests.
- Dame du vestiaire - Coat room attendant who receives and returns guests coats and hats.
- Voituriers (Valet) - Parks guests cars and retrieves them upon the guest exiting the restaurant.
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