Haute Cuisine: Why Is French the Lingua Franca of Cooking?


French is so strongly associated with cooking that it crosses over from professional kitchens to the home and on into the dining room. The French may claim credit for the invention of the restaurant, but they didn’t invent cooking. Why, then, are so many cooking terms French in origin? Royal chefs, political upheaval, and five-star hotels all play a role.

In 1651, the chef La Varenne wrote Le cuisinier françois, considered to be the foundation of modern French cuisine. This highly influential book was one of the first to set down codified, systematized rules and principles of food preparation. Royal chefs embraced this new haute cuisine, aided by the royal privilege that exempted them from the guild system that controlled French professional cooking.

When the French Revolution upended French society in the 1790s, it had two major influences on the culinary scene. The guild system collapsed as part of the old order, leaving chefs free to make and sell anything they wanted. And many royal chefs lost their jobs when their employers lost their heads, sending a legion of highly trained French culinary professionals out of the country in search of work in the royal kitchens of Europe. The French influence began to spread.

By the time Georges Auguste Escoffier made his way into the kitchens of César Ritz’s hotel empire in the late 1890s, French cuisine was firmly ensconced as the food of aristocrats and the upper classes in both Europe and the States. Escoffier updated La Varenne’s rules and principles for preparing food, and he established new systems for the actual kitchen. He divided the kitchen into five stations, each responsible for different components of a dish. The garde manger, for example, prepared cold dishes; the saucier made soups and sauces. This system, along with the publication of Le Guide Culinaire in 1903, cemented French’s place in the culinary firmament. Culinary schools teach it, four-star restaurants use it, and we all speak it every time we open a menu or watch “Top Chef.” 

So while they might not have invented cooking, the French were the first and best at creating systems and rules for cooking, writing them down, and passing them on. And that's why professionals and amateurs alike sauté instead of "cook quickly in oil", julienne instead of "cut into thin strips", and purée instead of "blend into liquid". We hope we've helped add some historical and linguistic flavor to your next soirée, and wish you a hearty bon appétit.

Photo attribution: Iain Farrell

Subscribe to this blog

RSS feed

About this blog

Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.


software cost tips technology & localization industry language entertainment southeast asia arabic website marketing mobile acclaro languages of the world acclaro localization and translation services acclaro world language map world language map arts sports & culture europe eastern europe africa french international business north america latin america middle east swedish asia german chinese documents case study localization retail quality transcreation spanish south america italian english ecard networking portuguese romance languages japanese staffing technology machine translation cost savings acclaro games language apps elearning localization multimedia translation multimedia localization elearning translation training translation ecommerce localization bitcoin cryptocurrency global ecommerce bitcoin regulation bitcoin exchanges china chinese translation chinese localization beijing localization cantonese and mandarin translations translation for business in china business translation in chinese top retail markets in the world new retail openings retail markets acclaro black friday cyber monday cyber week cyber monday woche single’s day bachelor’s day holiday shopping online borderfree doorbuster sales global holiday ecommerce healthcare initiative spanish healthcare cuidadodesalud.gov mt case study mobile apps mobile app translation app store optimization aso mobile app thai translation ecommerce in asia valentine’s day valentines in japan valentines in south korea chinese valentine’s day singles day translation project fitbit visualiq gibson mardi gras food localization globalization consulting localization staffing localization recruiting startups global scalability international ecommerce international payment international order fulfillment global online shopping acclaro april fool’s stories usaapril fool’s stories germany april fool’s stories ecommerce ecommerce design wine translation marketing translation english remains the dominant language in the united states but almost one in five americans speaks a language other than english at home. are you missing out on customers who are more comfortable doing business in languages other than english? read on to learn how your company can profit from translation within the united states. translation myths translation mistakes international translation misconceptions translation errors translation process translating startups marketing translations translation marketing international social media qa quality assurance quality translations global apps app localization app translation app store translation global startups international app launch press release translation international press release global pr global press release press release localization kontax translate news international marketing video localization video translation video translation agency brazil brazilian portuguese english-to-portuguese translation boston translation services boston web translation boston translation agency global branding international branding global brand evaluation lithuanian translation lithuanian language translation adapt to lithuanian translators translation ecommerce in india business travel business travel apps international banking financial services translation marketing transcreation international copywriting website translation website localization japanese translation english-to-japanese translation japanese translation services translation solutions web localization mobile app localization iphone 6 glocal global brands translation services translation agency translation partner global content marketing localization world business case for translation