Nouvelle Cuisine


Nouvelle cuisine (‘new cuisine’) is an approach to cooking and food presentation used in French cuisine. By contrast with ‘cuisine classique,’ an older form of French ‘haute cuisine,’ nouvelle cuisine is characterized by lighter, more delicate dishes and an increased emphasis on presentation.

The modern usage can be attributed to author Henri Gault, who used it to describe the cooking of Paul Bocuse and Fernand Point. Bocuse claims that Gault first used the term to describe food prepared for the maiden flight of the Concorde airliner in 1969.

The style Gault wrote about was a reaction to the French ‘cuisine classique’ of French restaurateur Auguste Escoffier and other chefs of the traditional school. Calling for greater simplicity and elegance in creating dishes, nouvelle cuisine is not cuisine minceur, (‘thin cooking’), which was created by Michel Guérard as spa food. It has been speculated that the outbreak of World War II was a significant contributor to nouvelle cuisine’s creation—the short supply of animal protein during the German occupation made it a natural development.

There is a standing debate as to whether nouvelle cuisine has been abandoned. Much of what it stood for—particularly its preference for lightly presented, fresh flavors—has been assimilated into mainstream restaurant cooking. By the mid-1980s some food writers stated that the style of cuisine had reached exhaustion and many chefs began returning to the cuisine classique style of cooking, although much of the lighter presentations and new techniques remained.


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