Intoduction to Food & Society
Peasant Cookery
Restaurant History

Restaurant History

Contrary to popular thought, elegant dining began in Italy but was elevated in France, thanks mainly to the legacy of Catherine de Medici and her marriage to Henry II of France. Upon her arrival in France, she brought the master Medici cooks as well as utensils from Florence. Foods never before seen in France were soon being served using utensils instead of fingers or daggers, and a fascination for fine dining was born.

The Origins of Fine Dining

In the Middle Ages, dining places for common people did not exist and people usually ate in private homes. People of wealth or high rank frequenting inns usually had their servants prepare their foods. Religious orders continued to care for travelers. Taverns originally were only allowed to serve drinks, but later added foods such as appetizers and, eventually, full meals were allowed to be served. But a number of events, concepts, and inventions followed which began to transform the simple act of eating into the art of fine dining.

1. During the 16th century, coffee and tea were imported to Europe, and coffee houses sprang up all over Europe, becoming the social and literary centers of the day.
2. Tour d'Argent Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in the world, opened in Paris in the mid-16th century and has remained its most exclusive and expensive restaurant for over 400 years.
3. In 1760, during the reign of France's King Louis XV, a man named Boulanger began selling soups and other nourishing dishes such as Boulanger potatoes, which are still included on many menus today. He called his enterprise "restorante," meaning restorative foods in French.
4. In 1782, The Grande Tavern de Londres, a true restaurant, opened in Paris to be followed three years later by Aux Trois Freres Provencaux. By the time of the French Revolution, there were 500 restaurants in France.
5. Following the Revolution, the demise of the French aristocracy left many servants unemployed. These dispossessed chefs and servants scattered and formed the basis of what was to become the modern French restaurant and foodservice industry.

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