Finding Escoffier

Auguste Escoffier
Auguste Escoffier

I think I lit a small fire last night.

My new roommate works in the restaurant industry, and is dating a nice young man that is also. I got to meet him last night, after he worked two very long shifts. He has a server job at night, but during the day he works as a cook for the World Congress Center here in Atlanta, and regularly helps to prepare meals for tens of thousands of people every day. I was asking him about the staff, guessing they would need a cook staff of roughly a hundred or so to manage that facility. He pretty much confirmed that, with 25 – 30 in the Garde Manger kitchen, another 2 teams of 25 – 30 in Banquet, then additional folks in Pastry and assorted other positions. I said: “Escoffier would be proud.” I was met with blank stares. I said “Do you know who Escoffier was?” and they both said they did not, so I gave them a brief run-down of the King of Chefs, telling them about Peach Melba, the Corps de Cuisine, and the black tome “The Escoffier Cook Book”. A little while later, I pulled the book off my shelf and handed it to him. Now here is a kid with little formal training, but tons of OTJ. He could brunoise with the best of them, but didn’t know any of the background of why he was doing it. He couldn’t put the book down. My copy is well annotated with loads of post-it notes marking sections such as Sauces, Meats, etc. He started finding the names of dishes he made regularly, and was fascinated. I saw a light come on in his exhausted head as he turned the pages. He would put it down for a minute and then pick it back up again.

I hope he goes in to his enormous work place among an army of cooks today with a new appreciation for his profession, and a fire lit under him to learn more about it. It sure was fun to watch that fire kindle into being.


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