(now renamed Les Halles de Lyon-Paul Bocuse), while those that were not still had access to the finest produce the growers of France had to offer. Suppliers could be relied upon to deliver only the freshest fish, fruit, and vegetables. Even the chickens were guaranteed to be at their peak—producers of Bresse chickens test that their birds are ready by parting the breast feathers and blowing onto the breast; if a certain vein bulges then the bird is ready for the table. Truffles and foie gras could be sourced without difficulty. Such luxuries were unavailable to the Roux brothers. They took what they could get, sourced those items such as vegetables which they could get legitimately from France, and took to smuggling for the rest. And if they were forced to make do with what produce they found, at least they had what they brought with them: technique. Carême’s L’Art de la cuisine ran to five thick volumes. Escoffier’s great work compiled over 5,000 recipes. Even Julia Child’s 1961 consolidation of French technique for the American public, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, ran to almost seven hundred pages. (Her instructions for making an omelette took up twelve of those!) And as she writes in her introduction to the anniversary edition, many of the more onerous tasks and techniques have been simplified by the arrival of machines such as the food processor. Michel and Albert Roux were steeped in those techniques, and in an England where food was dramatically less sophisticated— the core of the culinary tradition was home cooking—it was only natural that they would stand out. Of course, the traffic had never been only one way: both Carême and Escoffier had cooked in England. Indeed Escoffier was there for twenty years, though it must be remembered that in that time he refused to learn English, for fear that it might coarsen his cooking! Even so, the French had long admired the skill of the English in roasting meat, which they called rosbif, even if the meat in question happened to
be lamb. The words à l’anglais became common on menus, used to describe vegetables, meat and fish prepared in a variety of straightforward ways. Crème anglaise, English custard, is a fundamental preparation in classic cuisine. And perhaps most ironically, an Englishman named Richard Lucas opened a Taverne anglaise in Paris in 1832, its menu featuring roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. The establishment became the Restaurant Lucas and subsequently the Lucas-Carton, where Bocuse himself, among a number of others, trained.
Opposite: French chefs often prepare dishes that are so beautiful as to be also works of art. This particular dish is veal sweetbreads and vegetables in chartreuse. Below: ’In the Kitchen’, preparations dinner in a Paris restaurant, L’Illustration, 1893.