History of Garde Manger
In the brigade system that was created by Auguste Escoffier, Garde Manger is Cold Pantry.
The literal translation of GardeManger is “Keep to Eat” and refers to the process of preparing foods for storage by Brining, Smoking, Drying, Curing, or Canning. In today’s restaurants, Garde Manger also refers to the station that makes salads, dressings, hors d’oeuvres and forcemeats. Since there was no refrigeration, people had to come up with ways to keep and preserve food so that they would have it when foods were in short supply due to the seasons. In medieval times, castles and manors had cold rooms or larders where food was stored. On French estates, these larders were called “Garde Manger”; henceforth, the culinary term for Garde Manger became “a place where cold food is prepared and stored”. Another way for the term Garde Manger to be used is to identify the person that is in charge of preparation and storage of cold foods.
Garde Manger can also be used as a term to describe the craft of preservation. The first dependable form of preservation was the drying of food. This was usually done by laying the food out in the sun to dry. Similar results could also be achieved by adding salt to the food. Adding salt aided the drawing out of moisture so that the food could be stored. While the foods were drying, they were often hung from rafters over a smoky fire. The smoke had a dual purpose. Originally it was used to keep insects off the food. Later, people discovered that the smoke actually made the food taste more flavorful.
Families that lived on secluded farms were among the first people to practice garde manger. They started adding herbs, spices, and sometimes beer or wine to flavor the foods. They also discovered that chopping or grinding the food into little pieces and adding lots of fat gave the meats more flavor and helped them last longer. These same people also developed and refined the art of cheese making.
As civilization advanced, cooking methods and food preferences changed too. In the early renaissance, food was heavily spiced and sauced. In the mid-1600’s the food and style of service began to change.
Francoise La Varenne began to move away from the Italian influenced style to foods with lighter sauces, and fresh vegetables. The addition of new foods and spices from Asia, the Middle East and even America were added to the larder. Soon, lighter foods and fresh ingredients gave way to new methods. The addition of leafy greens led to salads and vinaigrettes being served in addition to the heavier cooked foods. Refined cold dishes were now served that combined meat, fish or poultry with vegetables. The practice of garde manger expanded from preservation to preparation of all cold foods for the table. It was then that the garde manger staff moved out of the basement and into the kitchen.
In the late 1800’s, the grand hotels from New York to San Francisco were bringing French Chefs into their kitchens. Their new style of cooking was called “Continental Cuisine”. This new style combined classical French techniques with the fresh lighter style of North America.
One of the most prominent features of Continental Cuisine were the lavish cold buffets that were prepared and presented by the garde manger department. Formal cold buffets presented opportunities to garde mange chefs to show off their skills. By 1935, when Escoffier died, the profession of garde mange chef had evolved to its present form.
Just as Francoise La Varenne is considered the father of classical French cooking, Fernand Point is considered to be the godfather of Nouvelle Cuisine.
Nouvelle Cuisine was a radically different style of French cooking that emerged in the 1960’s. The culinary philosophy of nouvelle cuisine was simplicity and perfection in all dishes by exploring new ideas, techniques and sharing information. Chefs developed lighter, fresher methods of cooking. One new practice was the process of plating food in the kitchen instead of having the servers serve from platters that they carried around the dining room. Garde Mange chefs began creating intricate plate designs that included food in individual portions.
As chefs began traveling the world, they found new ingredients and flavors to incorporate into their foods. The addition of these new flavors is often called “Fusion Cuisine”.
By the end of the twentieth century the garde mange profession had seen several important advances. Meat and poultry fabrication had been moved to the processing facilities. Today the meat and poultry arrives at the restaurant ready to go straight to the hot line. This advancement frees up the garde manger area to do more creative work.
The 1980’s brought a change in the way Americans were eating. More and more people were becoming health conscious and the salad became more than a side dish. We began to see more main dish salads, and more charcuterie products such as pâtés and terrines as main dishes and appetizers.
The garde manger field benefits from the multicultural nature of food service employees. Dishes often exhibit flavors from many different world cuisines.
To pursue a career in the garde manger kitchen, one should first have a solid set of skills in the other areas of the kitchen. A good foundation of skills will benefit one’s time in garde manger. A chef should never stop learning to stay at the top of his or her field. Trends come and go. Possessing current knowledge and updated skills will make any chef a vital part of any organization.