Nouvelle Cuisine

Hello again from Today’s World Kitchen! We hope you had a great week. A few posts ago, we talked about Escoffier and his influence on the culinary world. As the father of Haute Cuisine, or as it is better known, Cuisine Classique or Nouvelle Cuisine, Escoffier’s ethos still holds weight. Whilst Haute Cuisine is the prominent cuisine and of a high class, and remains so today, there were challengers to this technique.

To contrast the rigidity, and perhaps the ubiquity, of Haute Cuisine, Nouvelle Cuisine was introduced in the 1960s. Food critic Henri Gault invented the phrase and he and Andre Gayot and Christian Millau devised a guide to challenge the Michelin Guide and the conservatism of the industry. This guide, Le Nouveau Guide was also there encourage the chefs who were interested in doing the same.

Whilst it came quite late in the game, the approach was an experimental cuisine, considered to be generated by Fernand Point, in a bid to abandon tradition. The approach was refreshing and seemed to inspire its own mini revolution, elements of which are still at play today.

The approach of Nouvelle Cuisine is to focus on the freshest possible ingredients, simplifying the preparation and cooking times and differing the presentation of dishes. The key is to lighten the intensity of the rich sauces and marinades and to ultimately, free up the constraints of the Haute Cuisine recipe. It also challenges the chef to be more creative as the introduction of fresher ingredients means less longevity and utilization. This new wave of cooking meant there was more community amongst chefs as they would discuss their creations with each other. It seemed to adorn a personal freedom that Haute Cuisine didn’t.

It’s worth noting that this was quite a big deal. For those who work in the industry, French cuisine is the most respected cuisine and these pioneers are held in high regard. But what is even more important to note is that these revolutions would not have lasted without a satisfied consumer. Whilst these days, trends tend to dictate the success of a concept, a concept still needs the strong foundations, traditions that were designed by the likes of Escoffier and his peers.

In good humour, or perhaps pure provocation, Gault devised the ‘Ten Commandments of Nouvelle Cuisine’. Those are as follows:

  1. Thou shalt not overcook
  2. Thou shalt use fresh, quality products.
  3. Thou shalt lighten thy menu.
  4. Thou shalt not be systematically modernist.
  5. Thou shalt nevertheless seek out what the new techniques can bring you.
  6. Thou shalt avoid pickles, cured game meats, fermented foods, etc.
  7. Thou shalt eliminate rich sauces.
  8. Thou shalt not ignore dietetics.
  9. Thou shalt not doctor up thy presentations.
  10. Thou shalt be inventive.

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Have a great week!