Many famous French chefs have made significant contributions to the flavors and techniques now identified with French dishes. Each of these chefs took the traditions that preceded him and pushed French cuisine into a new direction, always improving and refining the tastes and flavors of the nation.
Francois Pierre de La Varenne was born in 1618 and forged new methods of food preparation in a culinary revolution that occurred throughout France. His book, "Le Cuisinier Francois," was published in 1651 and emphasized the natural flavor of foods as opposed to heavy spices and overcooking. Fresh vegetables were key ingredients, and meat was prepared in ways to maximize its flavor. La Varenne also wrote a book in 1653 about pastry-making, considered one of the first French pastry guides ever.
Marie-Antoine Careme was born in 1784 and became known worldwide as the father of French cuisine. He perfected many elaborate cooking methods (haute cuisine), and he prepared dishes for European royalty and wealthy patrons during his lifetime, including Napoleon, King George IV of England and Tsar Alexander I. From his elaborate edible centerpieces made of pastry to new sauces, his published works include recipes as well as cooking tips, organizational ideas and even menu plans.
Auguste Escoffier was born in 1846 and modernized many of the traditional French recipes and cooking styles. He wrote "Le Guide Culinaire" in 1903 and achieved fame as the partner and head chef of several famous international hotel restaurants. The restaurants served royalty and the wealthy from all over the world, and as the hotels expanded, Escoffier supervised all the restaurants. Escoffier also established a method of organizing kitchens that is still often used today and taught in chef schools the world over. He was the first chef to receive France's Legion of Honor cross (1920) for bringing French cuisine to the world.
Paul Bocuse was born in 1926 and is credited for promoting French cuisine internationally, especially in its newest form of nouvelle cuisine. This simpler style of French cooking eliminated the long prep work of the earlier haute cuisine, making French cooking accessible to many people. He taught many famous French chefs when they were culinary students and established several different restaurants in France and throughout the world.
When reading about famous chefs, you might be surprised by how many names you recognize. Whether you realize it or not, these people have probably impacted your life, or at least your waist, in some way.