First Restaurants, Chefs, and Gastronomy

Food: A Cultural Culinary History—Episode 28

Hello, Great Courses fans. This audio-podcast has been cooked, removed from the oven, and is being lovingly delivered to a new audio-platform. In its absence, please enjoy the video series that it was based off, streaming now Wondrium. Click here to watch it now.

The following episode transcript and images will remain for posterity. Enjoy!

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:

• Earl of Sandwich: Peter Lely [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Title page of the Art du Cuisinier by Antoine Beauvilliers : By engraved by Jubin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Brioche: Shutterstock
• Antoine-Auguste Parmentier: By Lua error in mw.wikibase.entity.lua at line 37: data.schemaVersion must be a number, got nil instead. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Service à la Russe: Shutterstock
• Formal place setting: By Hopefulromntic (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
hors d’oeuvreShutterstock
• soup: Shutterstock
• hot hors d’oeuvreShutterstock
• pasta: Shutterstock
• fish: Shutterstock
• hot dish with edible garnish: Shutterstock
• steak main dish: Shutterstock
• pate: Shutterstock
• sorbet: Shutterstock
• roast with salad: Shutterstock
• vegetables: Shutterstock
• soufflé: Shutterstock
cold sweet dish: Shutterstock
• cheese: Shutterstock
• fruit and coffee: Shutterstock
• Sommelier: Thinkstock
• The Bean Eater: Annibale Carracci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Marie Antonin Carême: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Le Chef de l’Hôtel Chatham, Paris: William Orpen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Alexis Soyer: By Henry Bryan Hall [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• A Shiling Cookery for the People: Library of Congress
• Charles Elmé Francatelli: By Charles Elmé Francatelli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• The Modern Cook: By Charles Elmé Francatelli, 1846. This material has been provided by The University of Leeds Library. The original may be consulted at The University of Leeds Library ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Auguste Escoffier: By Self, uncredited [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
• Grimod de La Reyniere: Louis-Léopold Boilly [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Almanach des Gourmands: By Égoïté (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
• Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin: Louis-Jean Allais [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Physiologie du gout: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons