The history of the culinary arts


Whether you're looking at a career in the culinary arts, or whether you're just interested in the world of food, there's a lot to know about the history of the culinary arts.


In this article, we'll cover the basics of the history of food, cuisine, and being a chef, including when culinary skills were first considered an art, what has impacted the culinary arts, and modern developments in the field.


Introduction to the history of culinary arts


The culinary arts include everything relating to cooking, preparing, and presenting food. If you think back over your lifetime, you'll probably be able to point out a few major changes in popular types of food. The culinary arts have been changing and evolving for hundreds of years, with people bringing new ideas and innovation to the field, so culinary history is a rich and interesting subject.


Why do we study the history of the culinary arts?


There are many different benefits you can get from studying the history of the culinary arts and the history of French cuisine. Some of the reasons to study history at a culinary arts school include:


  • Understanding past developments in the field
  • Predicting future developments and trends
  • Knowing why certain foods are popular or why certain techniques are used
  • Increasing your understanding of the whole field, and adding context to your practical skills
  • Gaining a good foundation from which to build and innovate your own dishes
  • Having a good insight into human history and culture
  • Helping you be aware of and appreciate diversity
  • Learning the societal and cultural significance of food


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When were culinary arts discovered?


It's hard to pinpoint when exactly the culinary arts started. People have been cooking and preparing food for over two million years, starting with cave people cooking meat on fires to improve the taste or texture, as well as making it safer to eat.


People have been improving their cooking techniques constantly since then. This makes it hard to pin down a specific starting point for the culinary arts. Rather, the culinary arts have been developed and refined for almost as long as the human species has been evolving.


Renaissance and the revival of culinary arts


Of course, even if the history of food stretches back as far as human existence, there are still notable times when cuisine history is more notable. The Renaissance period was not just an important time for the visual arts and invention; it was also a time when culinary traditions and cooking styles were being reimagined and improved upon.


The spread of culinary arts globally


Not only was the Renaissance a time when people were being more creative but there was also more exchange of ideas. Better transport in this era made this a significant time in cooking history as people from different cultures could come together and share their cooking styles. This led to the start of true global cuisine.


Emergence of professional chefs


Within cooking history, chefs' history is a particularly interesting topic. Being a professional cook or chef was, historically, not seen as a noteworthy career. In much earlier times, being a cook was similar in status to being a servant, as part of the household staff in richer households. It is often quoted that being a professional chef only became a real career outside these roles in the 18th century.


Influence of French cuisine


French food has been a major influencing factor in food culture for hundreds of years. From base sauces that help with any dish to the latest developments and food evolution, French cuisine is admired across the world. Some of the most notable influences are courtesy of Marie-Antoine Carême and Georges Auguste Escoffier, French chefs who worked to bring their cuisine to the world in the 1800s and early 1900s.



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Modern developments in the culinary arts industry


Moving into the 20th and 21st centuries, there are many exciting developments in the history of cuisine. These modern developments are important to study if you want to work within the culinary field and they are part of all good culinary arts education and training courses.


Globalization of culinary arts


While globalization started decades prior, the globalization of the culinary arts is in full swing thanks to the wider availability of travel as well as the internet and the greater spread of cookbooks. This lets people all over the world access recipes, ideas, flavors, and tips from every corner of the planet, so that global food is popular even for people who have never left their home country.


Rise of molecular gastronomy


Molecular gastronomy history starts in the early 2000s when the term was coined. This was a significant turning point in food preparation history, where cooking was approached as a science as well as an art, using chemistry, biology, and physics to make new and exciting dishes. This in turn has led to many culinary developments.


Emergence of celebrity chefs and cooking shows.


The first cooking shows aired in the 1960s and opened up cooking to a new audience. This inevitably led to a new breed of famous chefs, who weren't just renowned for their restaurants but celebrated for their programs and shows. Some of the earliest TV celebrity chefs were Philip Harben and Julia Child, but there are now dozens of famous chefs. This of course also highlights how being a chef is a good career for a lot of people.


Growth of food media and food blogging


Food awareness has also spread thanks to the internet. This has proven a good way for people to learn the basics of cooking, including learning about cuisine from other cultures. Food blogging started with the rise of the internet in the 1990s and has been a turning point in cookbook history, making recipes and ideas even more accessible. Of course, this has elevated home cooking and has meant that the professional cooking world has had to advance further to stay ahead.



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Which countries are most famous for the culinary arts?


France is one of the most famous countries for the culinary arts. Cuisine in France is well-known as high-end and luxurious, and there are a lot of aspects to its cuisine. This is one of the main reasons that people who want culinary courses look at French cooking schools, especially if they want to study French pastry or want to become a chocolatier.


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History of the culinary arts: summary


The culinary arts have been developing from the very first moment that cave people cooked food over fires. Since then, there have been numerous advancements, from refining food to new techniques. There are also a lot of different cultural considerations that you can learn about by studying the history of cuisine in more detail. In addition, there are also a lot of exciting developments ahead thanks to the internet and the spreading of new culinary ideas, as well as new trends that could pop up.


Whether you want to study a professional culinary course such as a bachelor's degree in baking and pastry arts and broaden your culinary education, or just want to improve your home cooking, there are many reasons to study the history of culinary arts.