KITCHEN LEGENDS – CHEF LA VARENNE
In our series “Kitchen Legends”, we want to pay tribute to better as well as lesser known stars of the culinary scene – even if their heyday was already long ago. This time: the chef François-Pierre La Varenne. He was the undisputed superstar of 17th-century France. His most famous work, Le Cuisinier françois, continues to influence the European culinary arts to this day and is one of the all-time bestsellers.
THE FRENCH CHEF PAR EXCELLENCE
It isn’t always easy to establish a perfect, new style. Especially when old habits are omnipresent and determine how things are done in everyday life. When François-Pierre La Varenne was starting out, dishes were still heavily influenced by medieval fare. His intention was none other than to develop and advocate a completely new way of cooking. He had developed a comparatively simple principle for his cuisine. From then on, he wanted the individual elements of the different ingredients to complement each other well. They should work together in harmony. So simple and yet oh-so revolutionary.
The flavour of an individual ingredient should no longer be overpowered by others. If a dish contained leek, then it should be possible to taste leek when eating it. In this way, his book set out individual rules. And chefs should follow those rules to make their guests completely happy. Subsequently, France’s restaurants truly flourished, which had a knock-on effect in other European countries.
LE CUISINIER FRANÇOIS: A COOK’S BIBLE
The book, which one can safely say is something of a bible for cooks, is known for containing a high number of recipes. Almost a century had passed since the last time such a collection of recipes had been published. Particularly striking is the fact that he arranged the recipes in alphabetical order. In the past, they had been grouped according to courses. What’s more, the texts were very appealing and witty, containing further tips and tricks. This was the first recipe collection ever to include precise instructions on how to make a dish. Previously, such books had merely included lists of ingredients. Even today, his book is still one of the most successful works on French cuisine. It is now also available in many other languages.
As a chef, François-Pierre La Varenne was a driver of culinary innovation. He set new standards. If we’ve whetted your appetite and you want to read the work, it is available here.