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Saturday, 22 March 2014


A chef is a trained professional cook who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation. The word  is derived from the term chef de cuisine, the director or head of a kitchen.

Le Chef de l'Hôtel Chatham, Paris (c. 1921), oil on canvas by William Orpen

The first documented recipe for pasta was in the early 11th century Italian book De arte Coquinaria per vermicelli e macaroni siciliani, (The Art of Cooking Sicilian Macaroni and Vermicelli) written by Martino Corno, chef to the powerful Patriarch of Aquileia.

Possibly the first cookbook written in English The Forme of Cury, (the word “cury” is a term for cooked food) was compiled in 1390 by King Richard II's chefs.

Charles I of England's French chef, Gerald Tirsain developed  a delicious new variation of flavoured snow for a state banquet hosted by the king. Milk, cream and eggs were added to make it much creamier and sweeter than any other iced dessert  The guests were delighted, as was Charles who summoned the cook, and made him promise to keep the recipe for his frozen cream secret. The King wanted the delicacy only at the Royal Table and offered him £500 a year to keep it that way.

Giles Rose, Charles II's chef, could fold a table napkin 26 ways.

England's King George II took such an interest in his food that he ordered every dish served to him to be labelled with the name of the chef who had made it.

A sauce made from olive oil and egg yolks was invented in 1756 by the French chef of Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, duc de Richelieu. While the Duke was defeating the British at the successful siege of the English-held St. Philip's Castle, his chef was creating a victory feast that included the new sauce. When the chef realized that there was no cream in the kitchen, he improvised, substituting olive oil for the cream. Located in Mahón, port city and the capital of Minorca, the successful siege resulted in the French’s gain of the entire island. The chef named the new sauce "Mahonnaise", (or mayonnaise) in honor of the Duke's victory.

Before ascending to the English throne as King George IV, the prince employed the most celebrated chef around, Marie-Antoine Carême (see below). The sumptuous food cooked for him gave Prince George almost permanent indigestion and his gargantuan excesses exceeded any other royals.

While cooking for Lord Stewart, the British envoy in Vienna, Marie-Antoine Carême put a tube of card into the floppy hat customarily worn by cooks to create the chef’s hat.

The tall white chef hats traditionally have 100 pleats to represent the hundreds of ways an egg can be prepared.

Carême died in his Paris house on the Rue Neuve Saint Roche at the age of 48 on January 12, 1833. The cause of death may have been the many years he inhaled the toxic fumes of the charcoal on which he cooked.

The composer Rossini gave up composing to become a chef. He invented Tournedos Rossini.

In 1852 a part Native Indian chef George Crum invented potato crisps by accident, thanks to a fussy customer. Industrialist Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt came to the Moon Lake House Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York, where Crum was a chef and ordered “thinner than normal French fried potatoes.” Vanderbilt kept sending them back to Crum, protesting that they were too thick. Finally, out of spite the chef sliced the potatoes paper-thin, so that he wouldn't be able to eat them with a fork then, fried them to a crisp in oil, and splashed salt on them. The fussy industrialist loved them. These "potato crunches” as Crum called them became a regular feature of the hotel’s menu.

Charles Ranhofer, the chef of the famous Delmonico's restaurant in New York, created a new sponge cake covered in ice cream to celebrate the 1867 American purchase of Alaska from the Russians. It was, at first, called Alaska-Florida Cake, but subsequently changed to Baked Alaska.

In 1943 Ignacio Anaya, a chef at the small Mexican town of Piedras Negras assembled the first nachos, a combination of tortilla pieces with jalapeño peppers and melted cheese, for some Texan ladies who were on a shopping trip.

The self-taught French chef Raymond Blanc came to Britain in his early 20s after being fired as a waiter at the Michelin-starred Le Palais de la Bière in Besançon. Blanc had upset the head chef by questioning his cooking and was hit by him with a frying pan.

In 2008, British chef Paul Hollywood created an almond and roquefort sourdough recipe that was said to be the most expensive bread in Britain, being sold for £15 per loaf at Harrods The Roquefort was supplied from a specialist in France at £15 per kilo, while the flour for the bread was made by a miller in Wiltshire. Hollywood described it as a "Rolls-Royce of loafs".

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

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