LA LIGUE DES GOURMANDS
A few months after founding the “Carnets d’Epicure”, Auguste Escoffier created with friends “La Ligue des Gourmands” , including Théodore Gringoire, the author of the “Répertoire de la Cuisine” who was the editor-in-chief of “Les Carnets”.
The idea came to them during one of their conversations about cooking and gastronomy on February 25th, 1912.
With Escoffier, things never dragged on! From the 3rd of March, the League takes shape: A Committee composed of twelve members was set up, with its seat in London (in the offices of Carnets, 60-61 Marsham Street, Westminster), subsidiaries in France and in Belgium, Articles of Association are drawn up; readers of “Carnets d’Epicure” are immediately informed and encouraged to mobilize to create Local Committees.
Its aim is to “prove the excellence of French cuisine everywhere” and that it is not at all in decline, contrary to what certain pessimists then proclaim.
For this purpose, the League will organize monthly dinners in all countries, the “Epicure’s Dinners” which will take place the same day and the menu will be identical everywhere.
Article 3 of the Statutes states that “The ladies will be admitted to be part of the: “La Ligue des Gourmands” a free memento will be offered to each of them at the first dinner”
THE EPICURE’s DINNERS
The creation of the “La Ligue des Gourmands” will allow Escoffier to realize one of his old dreams: a global dinner called Epicure’s Dinner and demonstrate at the same time that French cuisine is far from being in decline as some whiners then affirmed.
From March 3rd, 1912, date of the creation of the League, the association is set up in a few weeks in the greatest secrecy.
The prices of the Dinners are fixed: 5 to 7 F for France, 7 Shillings 6 Pence for Great Britain.
Part of the profits will be transferred to the retirement home of the French Cooks.
During each Epicure Dinner, “a guest will have to praise the French cuisine and wines in either verse or prose. “But” the long speeches likely to upset the digestion of the guests will be absolutely prohibited. ”
The last toast will be necessarily in honor of the French Cuisine and in the presence of the chef who will have prepared the Dinner.
The menu written and signed by Escoffier (with new recipes) must be luxuriously edited, so as to become a work of art.
Heads of restaurants affiliated with the League will receive this menu and recipes only ten days before the event, under sealed cover. They must keep it secret. If they don’t, they will be excluded from the League.
English and French newspapers informed about the project are facing an information black out, which only gives rise to mounting suspense and increase in reservations at the restaurants.
THE FIRST EPICURE’s DINNER
The Carlton considered too select and Escoffier not wanting a mix of genres, the Cecil Hotel London is chosen for the first dinner of Epicure. It takes place on May 25th, 1911, bringing together 300 people at Cecil and more than 4000 in the 37 restaurants scattered throughout the world but connected by telephone and telegraph that night.
The first telegram comes from Sarah Bernhardt, the faithful friend. “I am here among you; I take part in this beautiful French holiday; my hands are extended to our great poet Richepin, to my dear friend Escoffier, to you, Gringoire, who sings so beautifully the fruits and the flowers, to you all at last friends of poetry and genuine sensitive gourmets. ”
Then comes Jean Richepin’s: “Long live the diners and the” dodineurs” who I wholeheartedly join to celebrate the true great art that was and must remain our cuisine, this unique rose watered by the wines of France. ”
All the international press echoed this “world event“. It was on this occasion that Escoffier created, among others, the Sarah Bernhardt Strawberries.
Epicure’s First Dinner Menu
Hors d’œuvre ” Mignon ”
Petite Marmite béarnaise
Truite saumonée aux crevettes roses
Dodine de canard au Chambertin
Nouilles fraîches au beurre noisette
Agneau de Pauillac à la Bordelaise
Petits pois frais de Clamart
Poularde de France à la gelée d’Orléansv Cœurs de romaines aux pommes d’amour
Fraises Sarah Bernhardt
Café Mode Orientale
Les plus fines liqueurs
Vins : Chablis Moutoune 1902
Chambertin Clos de Bèze 1887
Champagne Veuve Clicquot
Dry England 1900
DURING TWO YEARS
The second Epicure Dinner was held on July 27th, 1912 in more than 50 restaurants around the world, including the Grand Hotel Yokohama, with 5,400 people. Escoffier creates the “Timbale Jean Richepin” for this occasion.
Every two months, these dinners followed one another, gathering more and more guests.
There will be more than 140 restaurateurs in the world (London, Paris, New York, Pittsburgh, Bombay, Lahore etc.) when the last Epicure Dinner will take place on June 14th, 1914.
The first World War will stop them brutally, as well as the Diaries of Epicure.
IN 1996: THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY DINNER
To celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Escoffier, the Fondation Escoffier has revived, with the Disciples of Escoffier, the Epicure’s Dinners.
A menu was chosen from past dinners.
Petite marmite Henri IV
Turbotin au gratin, coulis d’écrevisses
Ris de veau des gourmands aux pointes d’asperges
Selle de chevreuil, sauce groseille au raifort, purée de marrons
Mousse glacée aux mandarines
Fraises Sarah Bernhardt
This menu was lighter compared to the one served at the beginning of the century. It was not a betrayal of his memory, but of respect for what Escoffier had written in 1912, in the preface of the Book of Menus: “A gradual change will inevitably be imposed on the human diet (…) . This leads us to consider reducing the volume of meals as one of the unavoidable necessities of the future and is another argument (…) in favour of rather short menus.”
On October 28th, 1996, this Epicure Dinner was served in more than 150 cities around the world, from South Africa to Canada to Japan. Always in the Escoffier tradition, a very beautiful menu was printed, numbered and offered to each guest.
One of the most sumptuous of these dinners took place at the Ritz, Place Vendôme, in Paris.
IN 2006: THE 160TH ANNIVERSARY DINNER
For the celebration of the 160th anniversary of his birth, the Disciples of Escoffier reiterated, on October 28th, 2006, the same tribute and with the same success.
This menu was served everywhere:
Saumon de Norvège à la Royale
Noisettes d’agneau Favorite
Pêche Nellie Melba
Each year, in October, the Disciples of each Region of France and each country of the world organize an Epicure Dinner.
AN INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION
The idea of the Auguste Escoffier Foundation was born in the mind of Paul Thalamas and Eugene Herbodeau, faithful collaborators, great admirers of their master and authors of a book published in 1955 in London.
In 1958 they created an Association, surrounded by other cooks, including Jean Ducroux, the founder of “Disciples d’Escoffier”. And they had no difficulty in convincing Joseph Donon, also a pupil of Escoffier who has made his whole career in the United States, to be its patron.
The birthplace of Escoffier in Villeneuve-Loubet was bought and converted into a museum in 1959.
That same year, the Auguste Escoffier Foundation was born.
Recognized as a Public Utility in 1967, it was first presided over by Joseph Donon (1888-1982), with Vincent Bourrel being Deputy President. From 1966 to 1993, Jeanne Neyrat-Thalamas was the director, while Raymond Armisen, Honorary President of the Disciples, served as President from 1981 to 1999.