We started our visit with a lovely lunch of baked sole with herbs in a saffron sauce accompanied by saffron rice and haricots verts and a chilled rosé, followed by strawberries with chantilly and vanilla bean ice-cream, at L’Auberge Fleurie (Rue piétonne – 11 et 13 rue des Mesures, Villeneuve-Loubet Village, tél: 04.93.73.90.92) in the middle of the old town of Villeneuve-Loubet Village. Since the museum didn’t open until 2:00pm, we had plenty of time to savor our meal at this colorful restaurant. It was just two steps from the restaurant to the Musée Escoffier de l’Art Culinaire, which was the reason for our visit to this small Provençal village, just the next town over from Antibes on the way toward Nice.
The museum is situated in the house where Auguste Escoffier was born in 1846, with each room preserving many of the appliances, utensils, books, recipes, menus, photographs, and other memorabilia from his distinguished career. The “Father of Modern Cuisine” enjoyed creating dishes in honor of his special guests, which is how his famous “Pêche Melba” came into being. He created it for the Australian opera singer, Nellie Melba, who sang at the Covent Gardens Opera House while she lived at the sumptuous Savoy Hotel in London where Escoffier was the Chef de Cuisine. Among many other dishes, he also created “Fraises à la Sarah Bernhardt”, and a dish that we often see on menus in France, “Tournedos Rossini”, after the famous Italian composer. Escoffier was also the innovator of the “Prix Fixe Menu” during his tenure at Le Savoy. His innovations also extended to improving the atmosphere of his kitchen team and minimizing confusion and misunderstanding by dividing up the tasks in the kitchen. The team was organized by their responsibilities of sauce chef, fish chef, vegetables chef, roast chef, larder chef, pastry chef, confectioners, etc.
He is probably best known for what is often referred to as the Bible of French Cuisine, “Le Guide Culinaire”, published in 1903, with approximately 5000 recipes and garnishes. An abbreviated version, “A guide to Modern Cookery”, was published in English in 1907. In August Villeneuve-Loubet Village hosts a celebration of Escoffier called Les Fêtes Gourmandes, with many of the village restaurants providing menus with dishes prepared from his famous tome, often listing the page number from “Le Guide Culinaire” where the recipe can be found.