Who First Created Nouvelle Cuisine?

Nouvelle cuisine is French for “new cuisine”.  The style would hardly be considered “new” today, as it is really more of the standard in modern gourmet kitchens.  At the time, however, nouvelle cuisine was truly revolutionary, as it transformed both the way food is prepared and the way it is presented.

Nouvelle cuisine originated in France during the 1960s and and 1970s.  The kitchen revolution was  moving away from the rich, calorie heavy, dense meals of classic French cuisine.  Nouvelle cuisine sought to emphasize natural flavors, freshness, and also beautiful plating.  This new way of looking at food eventually sparked change in kitchens almost all over the world.  But who first created nouvelle cuisine?

Chef Fernand Point

 

Who First Created Nouvelle Cuisine?
Image via Samuel Zeller/Unsplash

 

Around the middle part of the 1900s, French cuisine was under a strict regimen.  Reverence for the past and rules for food preparation where highly emphasized, expected, and rarely strayed from.  Grande cuisine was so highly venerated that some young chefs felt that their creativity in the kitchen was being hindered. Many of these frustrated emerging chefs had trained under Fernand Point, a brilliant chef.  Point was an innovator, developing his own experimental cuisine that emphasized light, fresh ingredients.  He shared his ideas and techniques for preparing lower fat meals and lighter menus, creating a bit of controversy along the way.  His mentoring also inspired many aspiring chefs to continue to pursue nouvelle cuisine.

The Food Writers

 

Who First Created Nouvelle Cuisine?
Image via Pan Xiaozhen

 

The nouvelle cuisine movement also gained more prominence thanks to the work of several food writers.  Food critics Henri Gault and Christian Millau are generally given credit for the rise of novelle cuisine due to their publication called Le Nouveau Guide.  Gault and Millau, along with their friend André Gayot, founded the publication in 1969 to protest the Michelin guide.  Their feelings were that the guide was unwilling to accept change and was also ignoring the bold new generation of French chefs.  The very first issue of Le Nouveau Guide featured nouvelle cuisine chefs under the heading “Michelin: Don’t Forget These 48 Stars!” Their notoriety and willingness to push hard against established institutions brought the nouvelle cuisine to a wider audience. Then the topic started spreading to a bigger audience than they would have by word of mouth alone.

The Ten Commandments of Nouvelle Cuisine

 

Who First Created Nouvelle Cuisine?
Image via Wikipedia

 

As novella cuisine rose in prominence in France, Henri Gault sought to set some general guidelines in an effort to help the movement expand internationally. In 1973 Gault published “The Ten Commandments of Nouvelle Cuisine.” These guidelines gave the nouvelle cuisines movement a a firm identity that helped reach a wider audience. The 10 commandments were:

  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.
The movement was clearly a success, as nouvelle cuisine is mainstream and not fringe in today’s kitchens.  Chefs all over the world have embraced the idea of fresh, well prepared and well presented meals.  The emphasis on locally grown and source foods no doubt is an extension of the nouvelle cuisine movement.  The freedom chefs gained to experiment with their cooking and to integrate other culture’s cooking with theirs has led to many wonderful innovations in dining, such as fusion restaurants.  Our palates can thank the innovators of the past for the many fine dining options we have to enjoy today!

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