12th February 2021
A humble broth and the promise to restore one’s health was the beginnings of what we now know as the restaurant world and our foodservice trade. In France, 250 years ago, legend has it that a french soup vendor named Boulanger, opened his doors proclaiming “débite des restaurants divins,” (“restoratives fit for the gods.”) The word restaurant refers to the rich broth, which was considered beneficial in restoring one’s health. The origins of the word come from the French verb restaurer, meaning “to restore or refresh.”
Most french city folk, at the time, did not have a kitchen at home and relied on communal platters and street vendors for their cooked meals. This changed when Boulanger hung his sign up, promising restorative delights. Challenging the rules of the time, Boulanger served up pieds de mouton à la sauce poulette, the tempting sheep’s feet in a white sauce. Sounding innocent enough, however, at the time it crossed the boundaries of soup into stew, treading on the toes of his competitors. Strict rules required butchers, bakers, and traiteurs to work within their own trade.
Boulanger fought the good fight in court, arguing that due to his method of separating the sauce and only pouring it over the mutton, he had not stepped into the competitor’s territory.
The rest, as they say, is history. Helped along by the French revolution where rule books were thrown into the Seine, a brasserie sprung up on every corner, and the masses were satiated.
For a fascinating read on the history of the modern restaurant, head to this National Geographic story.