One of the delights of French cuisine is Chantilly Cream. And while treasured by chefs everywhere for its unique sweetness, few in the Industry know its amazing history.
The story of how Chantilly Cream was created centers around Francois Vatel, who lived during the 17th century in France, but of course. Many sites refer to Vatel as a chef but he was instead a “Master of the Kitchen”. In this position he was responsible for designing and implementing the vast culinary display dinners that were the hallmark of power and influence during the era of Louis XIV.
As a result, he was the creative director of all the talents within the kitchen as well as the final evaluator of all ingredients used. As you might imagine, a man with such an array of talents was greatly sought after by the rich and wealthy.
In 1671 the Prince announced to Vatel that Louis XIV, the Sun King himself, along with an entourage of 2,000 would soon be visiting the Prince’s estate and must be entertained in a style worthy of Europe's most elegant monarch.
Vatel, who was the son of lowly a Swiss carpenter, saw this as an opportunity to display what talent, not rank, could achieve. For the first evening of the King’s arrival on April 23, a light supper of turtle soup, creamed chicken, fried trout and roasted pheasant was planned.
The evening feast was set in a garden especially crafted to resemble paradise on a tropical isle. But to Vatel’s shock, the thoughtless King arrived with an additional 75 unexpected guests. (What chef would not understand his anger at such a sudden expansion of the guest count?)
The next day a final evening feast of Sole Almondine, Anchovies Sevigne, Melon with Parma Ham, Lobster Quenelles with Shrimp Sauce, Leg of Lamb, Vatel Duck Saluted in Madeira Wine and Strawberry Bombes was to be served.
When the correct amount of sole did not arrive by late afternoon, Vatel committed suicide in his rooms. Just after he was found, the delayed sole arrived and the feast was served, but without the sole to honor the passing of this legendary “Master of the Kitchen”.
So think kindly of Chantilly Cream and remember Vatel, who never served less than the best.
Post Note, May 30, 2012: Sometimes it seems that history repeats irself. Beginning June 5-8, the elite Bilderberg Group, which like Louis XIV often seems to influence world affairs, will be meeting at the Marriott Westfields Hotel in Chantilly, yes Chantilly, Virginia. One can only wonder if any of Vatel's amazing culinary creations will be on the meal there for the world's elite.
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2012