First Restaurants, Chefs, and Gastronomy

Food: A Cultural Culinary History—Episode 28

In today’s podcast we’re going to learn about the West’s first true restaurants in 18th-century Paris. We’re going to discuss the innovation of the formalized structure of meals served in multiple courses. Then we’re going to follow the exploits of four of the first celebrity chefs and the development of “gastronomy”—the science and art of eating well.

Images for this Episode:


Culinary Activities for this Episode:

• A Visit to a Fancy Restaurant

The next time you go out to a fancy restaurant, take particular notice of the dining protocols. How are you seated, and by whom? Are you helped into your seat? Does anyone unfold a napkin and place it on your lap? This sometimes still happens and was once commonplace. Are there separate staff members for pouring water, suggesting wine, or removing dishes? Try to keep track of the entire staff serving you. How does the waiter or waitress approach you, and where does he or she physically stay? Is it out of the way unobtrusively, or hovering nearby? How many tables does each server manage?

You will notice that, normally, the more expensive the restaurant, the greater the proliferation of servers (which stands to reason), but also the greater the ritualization of behavior. Is this simply because much more money is involved, or do people enjoy playacting in restaurants in order to feel important, wealthy, or sophisticated? Why do people seem to enjoy this kind of formality, and when is it inappropriate? When do restaurants or patrons miscommunicate about the level of formality—that is, not only getting the dress code wrong or not understanding which fork to use, but also seriously misreading the drama that unfolds in the course of a meal? Analyze whether your restaurant and server matched the expectations of the diners well. Also consider how restaurant manners change over time—especially recently, as restaurants are becoming increasingly less snooty and more casual. Why is this happening lately?

Suggested Reading:

Arndt, Culinary Biographies: A Dictionary of the World’s Great Historic Chefs, Cookbook Authors and Collectors, Farmers, Gourmets, Home Economists, Nutritionists, Restaurateurs, Philosophers, Physicians, Scientists, Writers, and Others Who Influenced the Way We Eat Today.

Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste.

Escoffier, Auguste Escoffier: Memories of My Life.

Ferguson, Accounting for Taste: The Triumph of French Cuisine.

Gigante, Gusto: Essential Writings in Nineteenth-Century Gastronomy.

Gigante, Taste: A Literary History.

Jacobs, Eating Out in Europe: Picnics, Gourmet Dining and Snacks since the Late Eighteenth Century.

Kelly, Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Careme, the First Celebrity Chef.

Korsmeyer, Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy.

Spang, The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture.

Trubek, Haute Cuisine: How the French Invented the Culinary Profession.

Willan, Great Cooks and Their Recipes From Taillevent to Escoffier.


Images courtesy of:

• Map of Africa: Shutterstock
• Fufu: Shutterstock
• Ugali: Shutterstock
• Sukuma wiki: Shutterstock
• matoke: Shutterstock
• watermelon: Shutterstock
• Black-eyed peas: Shutterstock
• millet: Shutterstock
• Sorghum: Shutterstock
• Stewpot over rocks: Shutterstock
• plantain chips: Shutterstock
• Akara: Shutterstock
• Togbei: By Afrolems ; cropped by Off-shell CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• Subsistence farming: Shutterstock
• Bushmeat: Shutterstock
• Mbuti peoples: By Martin Johnson (1884–1937) (The Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Masai: Shutterstock
• Yam: Shutterstock
• Pounding yams: By Flixtey (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• Teff: Shutterstock
• Inejira: By John Besi CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
• Okra: Shutterstock
• Baobab: Shutterstock
• Red Palm Oil: Shutterstock
• Palm wine: Shutterstock
• melegueta pepper: Shutterstock
• tamarinds: Shutterstock
• kola nuts: Shutterstock
• guinea fowl: Shutterstock
• White eggplants: Shutterstock
• Cassava: Shutterstock
• Olaudah Equiano: Daniel Orme [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Smoked Monkey: Shutterstock
• Map of Australia: Shutterstock
• Finger limes: Shutterstock
• Wattle seeds: Shutterstock
• Quandong: Shutterstock
• Macadamia: Shutterstock
• Moreton Bay chestnuts: Shutterstock
• witchety grubs: Shutterstock
• Kangaroos: Shutterstock
• Kangaroo meat: Shutterstock
• Wallaby: Shutterstock
• Emu: Shutterstock
• Banicoot: Shutterstock
• Goanna: Shutterstock
• ANZAC biscuit: Shutterstock
• Pavlova: Shutterstock
• Pie-floater: Shutterstock

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