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Cuisine classique is a style of French cookery based on the works of Auguste Escoffier. These were simplifications and refinements of the early work of Antoine Carême, Jules Gouffé and Urbain François Dubois. It was practised in the grand restaurants and hotels of Europe and elsewhere for much of the 20th century. The major developments were to replace service à la française (serving all dishes at once) with service à la russe (serving meals in courses) and to develop a system of cookery, based on Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire, which formalized the preparation of sauces and dishes. In its time, it was considered the pinnacle of haute cuisine, and was a style distinct from cuisine bourgeoise (cuisine for families with cooks), the working-class cuisine of bistros and homes, and cuisines of the French provinces.

Cuisine classique came under heavy criticism in 1972 from the food critics Henri Gault and Christian Milleau, for its rigidity (it is essentially defined by Le Guide Culinare, with little experimentation tolerated), penchant for elaborate, multi-day preparations and heavily cooked foods, and whimsical but cryptic naming scheme for dishes. While restaurants serving cuisine classique are now generally considered stodgy anachronisms – it has been supplanted by nouvelle cuisine, a revival of interest in provincial cooking (cuisine du terroir) and newer styles – la cuisine classique has had a decisive impact on cuisine as a whole. The techniques of cuisine classique still form the basis of most culinary educations, and the recipes of Le Guide Culinaire are still viewed as a vital stepping-off point in constructing versions of French classics better suited to modern tastes.


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