The Art of Cooking

Culinary Art

For most of us cooking is something we do on a more or less daily basis. We cook rice, fry meat, prepare a salad and when we want to make something special, for instance Tournedos Rossini or Pêche Melba, we follow a recipe.
For a few people cooking is about combining flavours, colours, textures and temperatures. Cooking is all about creativity; cooking has become an Art. Chefs invent dishes and utensils, they set the standard for regional cuisines and they guide us. Their artefacts are dishes and recipes; their art is Culinary Art.

The Escoffier Museum

Unfortunately there are not many musea dedicated to the Culinary Arts: in Napa, California (the The Culinary Institute of America), in Marrakesh (Museum of Moroccan Culinary Art) and in the beautiful French village of Villeneuve-Loubet: the Escoffier Museum of Culinary Arts. It is housed in an authentic Provençal style home from the 18th century: the birthplace of famous chef Auguste Escoffier.

The Escoffier Museum was founded in 1966 and is home to an intriguing collection, ranging from a Provençal kitchen (with a grill in front of an open fire), a predecessor of the mandoline (invented by Escoffier), a room with the most amazing sculptures made from sugar and chocolate, a room with Escoffier’s desk and a library with over 3000 books, a video room, a room with over 300 menus and a room dedicated to other great chefs.

Three Great Chefs

The museum owns a very nice portrait of Antonin Carême and a picture of Eugénie Brazier (1895 – 1977), also known as Mère Brazier. She was one of the ‘mothers’ in Lyon and she brought local cooking to the level of Gastronomy. She founded her first restaurant Mère Brazier in 1921 at the age of 26. She was the first to be awarded 6 Michelin stars for two restaurants. She truly is the founder of the regional Cuisine Lyonnaise. Indeed, the cuisine made famous by Paul Bocuse.
Antonin Carême (1784 – 1833) was very likely the first modern chef, an influential author and inspiration to chefs. He introduced the toque, he was a dear friend of Gioachino Rossini and very likely the creator of the tournedos Rossini. He started his career as patissier and became chef to Napoleon, the later George IV and Tsar Alexander I.
And of course Auguste Escoffier (1846 – 1935), chef in Paris, Monte Carlo and London. Together with César Ritz he created the luxury hospitality trade. He introduced behavioural and organisational standards in the kitchen. He stressed the importance of personal hygiene of kitchen staff and encouraged the further education of his employees. He developed the brigade system with party leaders and designed kitchen utensils. He introduced fixed price menus and developed Bouillon Kub with Julius Maggi. But above all he created many beautiful dishes and was chef to the rich, the famous and to royalty. And he was an author, of course, most notable of the Guide Culinaire (1903).
In 1910 (when working in London) he published about a project to extinct pauperism in the UK. Two years later he organised the first fundraising dinners to support charitable causes. His social interests went far beyond the rich and the famous.

Pêche Melba

The menus make you think about all these no doubt wonderful dishes, about the richness of the dinners and lunches, the extravagance of the food and wine served. Wouldn’t it be interesting to taste some of it? A slice of Filet de Boeuf a la Chartreuse? A piece of the Gateau Soufflot? The real artefacts of Culinary Art can be found in restaurants. Which creates an interesting dilemma. Pêche Melba was created by Auguste Escoffier for the famous opera singer Nellie Melba in 1893. The final recipe is a combination of peaches, vanilla ice cream and raspberries. Where can we taste Pêche Melba as if made by the great chef himself? Many restaurants offer Pêche Melba with additions such as whipped cream, mint, dried almonds or replacements such as strawberries and canned peaches. Very much not what Escoffier intended. So we can read the original recipe as written by Escoffier (on display and sale in the museum) but where to taste the real Pêche Melba?

Fortunately the museum offers a free tasting of Pêche Melba to all visitors between June and September. Indeed, depending on the availability of fresh, ripe, juicy peaches.

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Tournedos Rossini

The First King of Chefs

Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868) was a gifted, talented and great composer. Not only did he compose some 40 operas, many songs and the beautiful Petite Messe Solennelle, he was also an expert with regard to food. Perhaps expert is not the right word: he was a gourmand, an excessive eater and drinker plus a culinary inspiration. Chefs would name dishes after him, such as Filets de Sole Rossini (poached Dover sole wrapped around goose liver and truffle served with a white wine sauce), Cocktail Rossini (strawberries and prosecco), Macaroni Soup alla Rossini (a soup with partridge quenelles and Parmesan cheese) and many others.

The soup was created by Marie-Antoine Carême, a very dear and close friend of Rossini. He was Roi des Cuisiniers et Cuisinier des Rois having been chef to Napoleon, the Prince of Wales (the later King George IV), Tsar Alexander 1st and Baron de Rothschild. He created the concept of the four mother sauces (Allemande, Béchamel, Espagnole, Velouté) and was an essential inspiration for Auguste Escoffier. Marie-Antoine Carême is one of the most influential chefs ever, a brilliant  patissier and author of several books on cookery, including L’Art de la Cuisine Française.

Very likely it was Escoffier who came up with the word tournedos, but the combination of bread, meat, goose liver, truffle and Madeira was a creation by Marie-Antoine Carême, inspired by and prepared for his friend Gioachino Rossini.

Tournedos Rossini is a culinary pleasure. It’s elegant, full of flavours and exquisite. It’s simply gorgeous.

Wine Pairing

A classic red Bordeaux will be a perfect match. Dry, full-bodied and fruity. We enjoyed a glass of Château Gaillard Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2015. This is a dry, cherry-red coloured wine. It features medium woody, fruity and vegetal scents and offers a broad texture as well as medium tannins.

What You Need

  • 2 Tournedos (Fillet Steaks)
  • Butter
  • Madeira
  • Fresh Goose Liver
  • Winter truffle
  • Stock (Chicken or Veal)
  • 2 Slices of Old Bread

What You Do

Originally you would need demi-glace sauce, but we take a short cut. Make sure you have everything ready. The oven should be at 70° Celsius (160° Fahrenheit), one heavy iron pan and one non-sticky pan both warm, nearly hot, through and through. Make sure the meat is at room temperature. We prefer a small steak (75 gram). Start by frying the two slices of bread in butter until golden. Transfer the bread to the oven. Clean the pan with kitchen paper and add butter. Quickly fry the meat, it must be saignant (no options here). Wrap in foil and set aside. Reduce heat. Add stock to the pan and deglaze. Add Madeira. Thinly slice the fresh winter truffle (no options here). Add the smaller slices and crumbles to the sauce. Put the beef on top of the bread. Keep warm. Fry the goose liver for just a few seconds in the hot non sticky pan until golden/brown. Now plate up: the bread with the beef and the goose liver on top. Pour over the sauce, add the bigger slices of truffle and serve immediately.

Tournedos Rossini © cadwu
Tournedos Rossini © cadwu