Le Répertoire de la Cuisine was written by Théodore H Gringoire and Louis Saulnier, although some editions seem to miss out Gringoire altogether. Louis Saulnier was a student of the great Auguste Escoffier, and he wanted to produce a companion to his mentor’s book, Le Guide Culinaire.

First published in French by Flammarion in 1914, the book was tranlated into English by E Brunet, chef to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburgh, in 1924. More than seventeen editions have since been published by catering equipment seller Leon Jaeggi and Sons Ltd.

Tbe book is a slim volume of some 239 pages, but contains around 7000 recipes. The book begins with a brief explanation of French culinary terms and then dives straight into the fonds de cuisine, the fundamental elements of cooking: stocks, sauces, butters and garnishes.

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Then, hors d’oeuvres make an appearance. These are appetisers, amuses bouches size portions of sometimes intricate dishes and usually served cold. They would be trundled around the restaurant or hotel dining room on a covered but unrefrigerated hors d’oeuvres trolley. As the ingredients often contained seafood or eggs, they are considered too much of a food poisoning risk, by many establishments, now.

Before Nouvelle Cuisine, British restaurant food was overwhelmingly French. Le Répertoire enables chefs to produce approximations of classic French dishes by describing the ingredients and method(s) used to produce them, without quantities.

There are more than eighty omelette recipes in the book, arranged alphabetically. An omelette Andalouse will be stuffed with pimentos and tomatoes and surrounded with roundels of onions. Jets de Houblon will contain young hop shoots, cooked in cream. Maxim is an omelette decorated with crayfish tails and sliced truffles, with a border of frogs’ legs tossed in butter.

a person in sweater pouring eggs into the glass bowl
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There are more than 100 potato recipes, with names like Anna, Bataille, Delmonico, Duchesse, Julienne, Macaire, Marquise, Parmentier etc. The names can reflect extra ingredients or cooking methods. In this way, the book is also a glossary – a menu decoder, if you like. These days, that may be more useful in France, than in Britain.

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For the low carber, there are literally thousands of possibilities for starters, mains, sides and vegetables, because the book was written before the low-fat mantra became de rigueur. Also, restaurant and hotel chefs aren’t as concerned with nutrition as chefs in schools or prisons, as the majoity of customers aren’t eating there daily. The customers want and expect, something next level and the use of butter and cream, for example, can do that.

The book is a slice of social history, published in the year that WW1 broke out. It shows the types of dishes which chefs were cooking for their customers in France and later in Britain. Some people might regard it as old-fashioned, but it was translated into Spanish, for the first time, in 2012.

Generations of apprentice and commis chefs, have used the book, as a text book at college.

If you want Le Répertoire as a reference book, it can be bought for around £11 or so, on Amazon. However the full text of the 3rd edition is available online in French. Le répertoire de la cuisine (3e édition) / Th. Gringoire et L. Saulnier | Gallica (bnf.fr) Even if your French isn’t that good, having a look at the online edition, will show you the layout to expect.

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