If Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) were alive today, we would have made him proud. The famed chef is credited with transforming the kitchens of London's Savoy and Ritz Carlton Hotels and literally wrote the book on classical French cooking—Le Guide Culinaire. Thousands of devotees around the globe (called "les amis d'Escoffier") continue to pay homage to the culinary icon by hosting elaborate dinners that strive to recreate the taste, elegance, pacing, and service of a bygone era. For Wednesday's class, with the help of our instructor John Vyhnanek (who happens to be "un ami"), we worked like a well-oiled machine to crank out a multi-course, sit-down "dinner d'honneur Auguste Escoffier".
Besides being a culinary history lesson, preparing the meal also taught us about how to cook and serve a plated dinner for a crowd. Normally at the end of class, we stand around ravenously with paper plates and plastic forks in hand. But today we spread out the white linens and set the table with wine glasses to match every course. Each dish needed to be at the right temperature at the right time and served to everyone at once.
My team was assigned the main course. "Le grand tournedos rossini" consisted of butter-fried croutons topped with seared medallions of beef filet, fois gras, truffles and Madeira sauce. A few minutes before the course was to be served, we left the table to sear the beef. The croutons, fois gras, and accompaniments were prepared earlier and just needed to be warmed in the oven. We lined the work surface with 18 hot plates to begin our assembly line. A drop of sauce, a crouton, the beef medallion, the fois gras, sliced truffles, sauce, chives. Each plate also received a perfect bundle of haricot vert, a skinned and seeded tomato, and 2 pont-neuf potatoes. Then we were off to the dining room to present our highly refined "meat and 3".
The 4 prior courses (and wine pairings) were also splendid. I captured them all in the photos below. It was an afternoon of efficient teamwork that was rewarded with the rare opportunity to sit down, relax, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. The only things missing were the white gloves.
For the grand finale, a Titanic-shaped baked Alaska!