Nouvelle cuisine (French, "new cuisine") is an approach to cooking and food presentation in French cuisine. In contrast to cuisine classique, an older form of haute cuisine, nouvelle cuisine is characterized by lighter, more delicate dishes and an increased emphasis on presentation. It was popularized in the 1960s by the food critics Henri Gault, who invented the phrase, and his colleagues André Gayot and Christian Millau in a new restaurant guide, the Gault-Millau, or Le Nouveau Guide.
An example of nouvelle cuisine presentation
Menon, La nouvelle cuisine (1742)
The term "nouvelle cuisine" has been used several times in the history of French cuisine, to mark a clean break with the past.
In the 1730s and 1740s, several French writers emphasized their break with tradition, calling their cooking "modern" or "new". Vincent La Chapelle's published his Cuisinier moderne in 1733–1735. The first volumes of Menon's Nouveau traité de la cuisine came out in 1739. And it was in 1742 that Menon introduced the term nouvelle cuisine as the title of the third volume of his Nouveau traité. François Marin worked in the same tradition.
The style Gault and Millau wrote about was a reaction to the French cuisine classique placed into "orthodoxy" by Escoffier. Calling for greater simplicity and elegance in creating dishes, nouvelle cuisine is not cuisine minceur ("thin cooking"), which was created by Michel Guérard as spa food. It has been speculated that the outbreak of World War II was a significant contributor to nouvelle cuisine's creation—the short supply of animal protein during the German occupation made it a natural development.
Scallop tangerine gastrique
Gault and Millau "discovered the formula" contained in ten characteristics of this new style of cooking. The ten characteristics identified were:
A rejection of excessive complication in cooking.
Cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables and pâtés were greatly reduced in an attempt to preserve the natural flavours. Steaming was an important trend from this characteristic.
The cuisine was made with the freshest possible ingredients.
Large menus were abandoned in favour of shorter menus.
Strong marinades for meat and game ceased to be used.
Heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel were replaced by seasonings with fresh herbs, high-quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar.
New techniques were embraced and modern equipment was often used; Bocuse even used microwave ovens.
The chefs paid close attention to the dietary needs of their guests through their dishes.
The chefs were extremely inventive and created new combinations and pairings.
There is a standing debate as to whether nouvelle cuisine has been abandoned. Much of what it stood for—particularly its preference for lightly presented, fresh flavours—has been assimilated into mainstream restaurant cooking. By the mid-1980s, some food writers stated that the style of cuisine had reached exhaustion and many chefs began returning to the cuisine classique style of cooking, although much of the lighter presentations and new techniques remained.
^Philip Hyman and Mary Hyman, "Printing the Kitchen: French Cookbooks, 1480–1800", in Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montanari, eds., Food: A Culinary History from Antiquity to the Present, 1999, ISBN 0231111541 (translation of Histoire de l'alimentation, 1996), p. 398
Hewitt, Nicholas. The Cambridge Companion to Modern French Culture. Cambridge: The Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-521-79465-7
Mennel, Stephan. All Manners of Food: eating and taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the present. 2nd ed., Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-252-06490-6
Patrick Rambourg, Histoire de la cuisine et de la gastronomie françaises, Paris, Ed. Perrin (coll. tempus n° 359), 2010, 381 pages. ISBN 978-2-262-03318-7
The Nouvelle Cuisine Cookbook: The Complete International Guide to the World of Nouvelle Cuisine by Armand Aulicino. (1976) ISBN 0-448-14418-2
The Nouvelle Cuisine of Jean and Pierre Troisgros by Jean and Pierre Troisgros. (1977) ISBN 0-688-03331-8.
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