French gastronomy throughout the centuries

  • Foie gras appetizers

    Foie gras appetizers

    © Atout France/Cédric Helsly

  • Salmon served at De Vinus Illustribus, a cellar in Paris specialising in fine wines and rare vintages

    Salmon served at De Vinus Illustribus, a cellar in Paris specialising in fine wines and rare vintages

    © Atout France/Cédric Helsly

  • Country-style meal

    Country-style meal

    © Atout France/PHOVOIR

  • A red berry cake

    A red berry cake

    © Atout France/PHOVOIR

French gastronomy throughout the centuries France fr

Our ancestors the Gauls

The history of French gastronomy goes back centuries to the Gauls, who developed a culture of eating and drinking well, an art de vivre that still exists today. 

The art of feasting in the Middle Ages

Banquets helped affirm your rank, wealth and level of prestige, and were held to celebrate weddings, engagements, births and victories...  Meals were composed of several courses and enlivened with animations and performances.  Forks and knives had yet to make their appearance, so fingers were used to serve from the main dish.

The growth and grandeur of French cuisine

The notion of French cuisine became important during the reign of Louis XIV. Meals became theatrical, orchestrated by a maître d'hotel, and service à la française reached its peak in the 18th century.  Known internationally today, this type of service helps structure a meal, which begins with soups and starters, followed by roasts, ending with entremets and desserts.

Restaurants become fashionable

Table service in restaurants began during the French Revolution.  At that time there were 100 restaurants, which grew to 600 under the Empire and 3000 during the Restoration period.

From science to culinary arts

In the 18th century, chefs wished to bring out the best and most refined of their creations by combining or breaking down products for maximum taste harmony.  At the beginning of the 20th century, chef, restaurateur and culinary writer Auguste Escoffier innovated in his own way, creating a simpler, more natural presentation for meals.

French chefs became known overseas in the sixties, building a reputation as the best of their time.  Paul Bocuse, honoured as Chef of the Century, launched the international Bocuse d’Or competition, aiming to put the chef's profession in the limelight and to share French gastronomy with all. Michel Guérard built the foundation of Nouvelle Cuisine, questioning the abundant use of cream and butter, while other chefs like the Troisgros brothers, Alain Chapel, and George Blanc also secured their place in culinary history books. 

By the end of the 20th century, Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy, Joël Robuchon, and Michel Troisgros were but a handful of the illustrious chefs who knew how to refine the legacy of the past while honouring local products. 

More information

Related videos

 
 

Sponsored videos

 
 
 
 

Things to see