How a Poor, Abandoned Parisian Boy Became a Top Chef
A) The busy streets in Paris were uneven and caked in thick mud, but there was always a breathtaking sight to see in the shop windows of Patisserie de la Rue de la Paix. By 1814, people crowded outside the bakery, straining for a glimpse of the latest sweet food created by the young chef who worked inside.
B) His name was Marie-Antoine Car锚me, and he had appeared, one day, almost out of nowhere. But in his short lifetime, which ended exactly 184 years ago today, he would forever revolutionize French gourmet food锛堢編椋燂級, write best-selling cook books and think up magical dishes for royals and other important people.
C) Car锚me's childhood was one part tragedy, equal part mystery. Born the 16th child to poor parents in Paris in either 1783 or 1784, a young Car锚me was suddenly abandoned at the height of the French Revolution. At 8 years old, he worked as a kitchen boy for a restaurant in Paris in exchange for room and board. By age 15, he had become an apprentice锛堝寰掞級to Sylvain Bailly, a well-known dessert chef with a successful bakery in one of Paris's most fashionable neighborhoods.
D) Car锚me was quick at learning in the kitchen. Bailly encouraged his young apprentice to learn to read and write. Car锚me would often spend his free afternoons at the nearby National Library reading books on art and architecture. In the back room of the little bakery, his interest in design and his baking talent combined to work wonders-he shaped delicious masterpieces out of flour, butter and sugar.
E) In his teenage years, Car锚me fashioned eatable copies of the late 18th century's most famous buildings-cookies in the shape of ruins of ancient Athens and pies in the shape of ancient Chinese palaces and temples. Sylvain Bailly, his master, displayed these luxuriant creations-often as large as 4 feet tall-in his bakery windows.
F) Car锚me's creations soon captured the discriminating eye of a French diplomat, Charles Maurice de
Talleyrand-Perigord. Around 1804, Talleyrand challenged Car锚me to produce a full menu for his personal castle, instructing the young baker to use local, seasonal fruits and vegetables and to avoid repeating main dishes over the course of an entire year. The experiment was a grand success and Talleyrand's association with French nobility would prove a profitable connection for Car锚me.
G) French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was known to be unimpressed by the declining taste of early
18th century cooking, but under pressure to entertain Paris's high society, he too called Car锚me to his kitchen at Tuileries Palace. In 1810, Car锚me designed the extraordinary cake for the wedding of Napoleon and his second bride, Marie-Louise of Austria. He became one of the first modern chefs to focus on the appearance of his table, not just the flavor of his dishes. "I want order and taste. A well-displayed meal is enhanced one hundred percent in my eyes," he later wrote in one of his cook books.
H) In 1816, Car锚me began a culinary锛堢児楗殑锛塲ourney which would forever mark his place as history's first top chef. He voyaged to England to cook in the modern Great Kitchen of the prince regent锛堟憚鏀跨帇锛? George IV, and crossed continents to prepare grand banquets for the tables of Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Never afraid to talk up his own accomplishments, a boastful Car锚me made a fortune as wealthy families with social ambitions invited him to their kitchens. Later, in his cook books, he would often include a sketch of himself, so that people on the street would be able to recognize-and admire-him.
I) Car锚me's cooking displays became the symbol of fine French dining; they were plentiful, beautiful and imposing. Guests would fall silent in wonder as servants carried Car锚me's fancy creations into the dining hall. For a banquet celebrating the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia's visit to George IV's Brighton Pavillion on Jan. 18, 1817, the menu featured 120 different dishes, highlighting eight different soups, 40 main courses, and 32 desserts.
J) As he traveled through the homes of early 19th century nobility, Car锚me forged the new art of French gourmet food. Locked in hot kitchens, Car锚me created his four "mother sauces." These sauces-b茅chamel, velout茅, espagnole and allemande-formed the central building blocks for many French main courses. He also perfected the souffl茅-a baked egg dish, and introduced the standard chef's uniform-the same double-breasted white coat and tall white hat still worn by many chefs today. The white clothing conveyed an image of cleanliness, according to Car锚me-and in his realm, appearance was everything.
K) Between meals, Car锚me wrote cook books that would be used in European kitchens for the next century. His manuals including The Royal Parisian Baker and the massive five-volume Art of French Cooking Series (1833-1847, completed after his death) first systematized many basic principles of cooking, complete with drawings and step-by-step directions. Long before television cooking shows, Car锚me walked readers through common kitchen tasks, instructing them to "try this for yourself, at home" as famous American Chef Julia Child might do, many years later.
L) In the end, however, it was the kitchen that did Car锚me in. Decades of working over coal fires in tight, closed spaces with little fresh air (to ensure his dishes would not get cold) had fatally damaged his lungs. On Jan.12, 1883, Car锚me died just before he turned 50.
M) But in his lifetime, Car锚me, ever confident, could see beyond his short domination in the kitchen.
He wanted to "set the standard for beauty in classical and modern cooking, and prove to the distant future that the French chefs of the 19th century were the most famous in the world," as he wrote in his papers.
N) Decades later, chef Auguste Escoffier would build upon Car锚me's concept of French cuisine锛堢児楗級.But in the very beginning, there was just Car锚me, the top chef who elevated dining into art.
36. Car锚me was among the first chefs who stressed both the appearance and flavor of dishes.
37. Car锚me wanted to show to later generations that French chefs of his time were most outstanding in the world.
38. Car锚me benefited greatly from serving a French diplomat and his connections.
39. Car锚me learned his trade from a famous dessert chef in Paris.
40. Car锚me's creative works were exhibited in the shop windows by his master.
41. Car锚me's knowledge of art and architecture helped him create extraordinary desserts out of ordinary ingredients.
42 . Many people in Paris were eager to have a look at the latest sweet food made by Car锚me.
43. Car锚me became extremely wealthy by cooking for rich and socially ambitious families.
44. Car锚me's writings dealt with fundamental cooking principles in a systematic way.
45. Car锚me's contribution to French cooking was revolutionary.