Marie-Antoine Careme – Father of Modern French Cooking

The French Revolution didn’t just affect the politics of that country – it changed it’s cuisine.

Out went the old restrictive chef guilds (which dictated strictly where a chef could work and who could be a chef) and in came a brand new invention – restaurants.

Instead of chefs being assigned where they could work by their guild as in the Ancien Regime, in the post-revolutionary period, they could work where they liked, and many chose to be independent and opened restaurants and competed with each other to win customers and fans.

marie antoine careme A star of this new competitive world of cuisine was Marie-Antoine Careme. Initially he specialised in patisseries, opening one of the first patisserie shops, the Patisserie de la Rue de la Paix. He then branched out into other restaurants, and not only laid down the system by which restaurant kitchens still operate today (from how the work is divided in the kitchen to the chef’s hat, it’s all down to Careme’s innovations), but codified the basics of French cooking – for example the sauces that go into most savoury French cooking. His other innovations include banishing serving fish and meat on the same plate (we continue this Careme tradition to this day).

He was hired to be Napolean’s chef, and wrote a number of influential books, the most famous being Le Pâtissier Royal Parisien (all about desserts and cakes), and L’Art de la Cuisine Français au Dix-Neuvième Siècle, his masterpiece covering the whole of French cuisine, with hundreds of recipes, which made him the father of Haute Cuisine.

When working for Napolean, he invented the patisserie, Milles Feuilles (which means a thousand leaves), also known as Tarte de Napoleon. Some people call them cream slices.

Sadly Careme’s books are out of print in English, but here’s his recipe for Milles Feuilles:

milles feuilles First prepare some puff pasty (about 300g). Then divide the dough into three portions and roll them out into three circles of about 2 cm thick. Place them on a baking sheet, prick them with a fork and dust with 50g of icing sugar and bake them in a hot oven for fifteen minutes. Once baked allow them to cool completely.

Meanwhile prepare 3/4 liter of rum-flavored confectioners custard (also known as pastry cream) and allow it to cool too. Chop 100g of almonds and brown them in a frying pan. Use two-thirds of the cream to cover two of the circles and then place them on top of each other like a sandwich. Place the third circle on top and cover the whole gateau with the remaining pastry cream and sprinkle with the browned almonds.

Most modern chefs adapt this by having more than three layers.

Related post:
Pellegrino Artusi – Father of modern Italian cooking
Delia Smith – Mother of modern British cooking

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *