Escoffier – King of Chefs – Founder of French Haute Cuisine

French chef Auguste Escoffier was unquestionably one of the greatest chefs the world has known and is  hailed by all the best chefs today as “The King of Chefs”.  He was the genius who masterminded the French realm of Gastronomy and cultivated “haute cuisine’’.

Escoffier was born in 1847 at Villeneuve-Loubet in the Alpes Maritimes, the Cannes hinterland and was 12 years old  when he started work in a kitchen which had no electricity, no gas, no running hot and cold water – and not one of the many labour-saving gadgets we enjoy today.

Yet, from 1859 until 1921, when he resigned from the London Carlton Hotel, Escoffier worked most of the time in the “heat and din of some big kitchen’’ for 62 years of his life.

He was a born teacher and wrote regularly in “Art Culinaire of Paris” and other culinary magazines and journals about the Cuisine Classique and the Cuisine Regionaliste.

In reflection, Escoffier had worked for 30 years before his great chance, considered by many to have been his coming to London with Cesar Ritz in 1890, the year after the opening of the Savoy. He was 42 years old.

Escoffier had the high profile platform to show how “a gracious way of living was inseparable from the presence of the ladies’’ and how the pleasures of the table could be exquisite without being extravagant.

In short, he brought a giant slice of refined French L’art de vivre to the stuffy male-only club culture of London.

And while he has carried for 110 years the title “Chef of Kings’’ since then, I have in my hand a much more practical legacy from Escoffier, his cookbook 2000 Favourite French Recipes.  This book was first published in French in 1934, a year before his death and was of course, written for the French housewife of almost 70 years ago.

It was first published as Ma Cuisine in 1965 by the Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited part of Reed International Books and has been revised and reprinted many times since.  It was not until 1991 that it was translated from the French by Vyvyan Holland and edited by Marion Howells and  published by Treasure Press in 1991.  In its pages, Escoffier, literally teaches us from the grave the art of French cooking.

However, while his reputation was built on artistic haute cuisine in  2000 Favourite French Recipes, he looks at everyday cooking and in his introduction claims that “the ordinary housewife will find delicious recipes within the limits of her purse’’.

Marion Howells assures us in her preface to the English edition that she has made no attempt to anglicise the recipes.

Meanwhile, Escoffier, in his introduction says he compiled the recipes with the chef and restaurateur in mind as well as the housewife.

“One must not forget that good sound cooking, even the very simplest, makes a contented home.’’

So, with Escoffier’s cookbook laid out before me, I begin to learn French cooking. I will begin with a well-known French recipe – Coq au vin (chicken in wine).

 BUT in the 83 pages of just chicken recipes in his tome there is NOT ONE of this name.  There are 220 different recipes – and six pages of cold chicken dishes. And  from eight pages of sautéed chicken recipes (serie de poulets sautés) I choose

Saute chicken with white wine and herbs (page 429). But as Marion Howells suggests, I soon compromise, dropping 2 oz. foie gras. One look at the recipe for 4 tablespoons of meat jelly ( a very long Glace de viande process) and I grab a packet of chicken stock.

White wine becomes red wine because that is the cask I have in the cupboard. And in the process I discover some insight into myself.  I actually have developed my own cooking style over the years from my own very practical Germanic mother.

And so I improvise with Escoffier’s recipe and the final dish is actually a mix of the above recipe and sauté chicken burgundy style, which uses red wine.


A spring chicken cut up and rolled around in flour seasoned with herbs, salt and pepper. Saute in  50 grams of butter and a dash of olive oil. Add ¼ teaspoon additional salt.  When browned,

Add 1 ½ cups of Renmano Premium Shiraz Cabernet.

Separately sauté 50 grams of  chopped bacon or raw ham.

Finely chop 50 grams of carrot and 25 grams of  onion and pound together. Put in pan with 10 grams butter and sauté till tender.

4 tablespoons of meat jelly (1 cup of chicken stock)

100 grams of mushrooms, quartered and lightly sautéed in butter.

Small glazed onions.


Take a big oven-proof dish (I use an oval black French cast iron Cousances baking dish with lid) into which I place the chicken pieces, add liquids – the chicken stock heated in the same pan as the chicken pieces to capture the juices,  the wine, bacon and the carrot/onion mix. Add mushrooms and thrust a bay leaf into the liquid together with sprigs of thyme. Some salt and some pepper if desired.

Cook for 40 minutes in medium oven.

SERVE:  with Rice Pilaf.

NOTE:  Contemporary Coq au vin differs only in its use of  tomatoes or tomato paste.

Wine, roses, art and un certain French flair.

The glittering gift store at Chateau Barrosa, in the Barossa Valley

may well be named All That Jazz, but it oozes French style thanks to

the creative flair of Lena Thumm.

Lena, married to Dieter Thumm, son of Chateau Barrosa owner and

Barossa wine baron, Hermann Thumm, opened her glamorous retail outlet

a year ago and the huge amount of glorious stock has become a tourist

attraction in a short period of time.


The theme is unashamedly geared for the Francophile with bijoux in big

glass display cabinets at every turn, beautiful table settings,

accessories from France, French-style homewares, gilt mirrors,

selected fashion, bags galore and art pieces.

Large bowls display countless artificial flowers on glamorous table

settings and pedestals and the visual effect is stunning.

The Cellar Door (a big tasting bar at the rear of then store) entices

customers to sample Chateau Barrosa wines and is the ideal distraction

for bored husbands, partners and lovers accompanying their womenfolk

on a tourist’s shopping spree.

Hermann Thumm, who passed away last year, once wrote “the  happy

relationship between wine, art and creativity can be traced into


He left an amazing legacy to the wine industry as the founder of

Chateau Yaldara which he built up from 1947 and sold in 2001 when he

was 88 years old to the McGuigian Wines Group. However Hermann and his

wife Inge immediately embarked on their new

 project in their dotage, building Chateau Barrosa to house their

priceless collection of 18th and 19th century antiques, porcelaine,

figurines and antique furniture. The core of the collection put

together over 35 years, is 19th century porcelaine, which includes

pieces from the great porcelaine European houses of Meissen, Sevre,

Worcester, Chelsea and Stinton.

The grand Chateau, built to house the collection, now stands as their

legacy to the valley and as a monument to art lovers Hermann and Inge,

two pioneers of the Barossa Valley.

Tours of the antiques, some dating from the 17th century, enables

tourist to live Hermann Thumm’s experience – his love of wine, art and


The Chateau, which  houses the Cellar Door, All That Jazz (testament

to Lena’s creativity) and The Collection, is set amidst the 30,000

roses Hermann also planted in his lifetime. It all makes a visit to

Hermann Thumm’s Chateau Barrosa at Lyndoch a rare, wonderful sensual


Follow Queen Elizabeth, who also visited Thumm’s rose garden, at

Hermann Thumm Drive, 1.5kms north of Lyndoch. See

Building Belair

What a process it has been to reach today – the day I accept a quotation from project builder, Stellar Homes to build our retirement home – at a price we can afford.

About 16 months ago, in April last year,we received our proposed plan from building designer David Frazer for a new home to be built on the same hillside site where we now live in a 1960s cream brick home. He had designed a four-bedroom home with a double garage under the main roof, which we do not have at the moment. It had a fabulous open-style floor plan with easy indoor-outdoor living. We fell in love with it in an instant.    

This would be the fourth house I had built and the second where I had demolished the existing dwelling. Husband Olivier had lived in the same cream brick house for 35 years of his life and the really big move had been in his mind – to consider removing his life from the old house where he had raised his children with his late wife, Colette and opening up the notion of building a stylish, new home where we could live out our lives.

David handled the important council planning stages, which includes a building certifier to hasten the process through council.  Eventually, we had building approval and three builders tendered for the job – one award-winning boutique builder and two project builders.

So, after all that, here I am this very afternoon in Stellar Homes’ selections room with Sue, Stellar’s senior consultant who has worked with us to achieve an acceptable price and Michelle, who from now on will be client liaison officer handling selections.

Life has revved up to a harrowing schedule and I must fit in the selection process next week, continue to pack up my home without husband Olivier, (who is in France handling his mother’s untimely death), and catch that overseas flight in two weeks to join him.  I feel somewhat pressured. A Qantas A380  seat has my name on it for  August 19.

Floor and wall tiles, sanitary ware, the electrical plan and the “Smart House’’ electronics planning all need to be wrapped up – because ours will be a fixed price contract.  Only the kitchen selections will be delayed until I return in September.

Birdlife sets peaceful pace on Hindmarsh Island

It is deepest winter on Hindmarsh Island, but the prolific water
birds, are unconcerned this chilly August morning. The swans are
preening themselves, a lone pelican floats along the river, a heron
silently observes and a flock of pristine white Ibis feed among the
I have strolled from Arcadia Avenue where my friends have built a new
holiday house, onto the boardwalk which edges the marina, past moored
cruisers, yachts and even the odd houseboat. On my left are rows of
multi-coloured townhomes nudging an expanse of green lawn. We five
walkers veer left and reach the reserve which overlooks the River
Murray and we peer across the water to Goolwa on the other side of
this stretch of water.

Everything about the development of Hindmarsh Island has engendered
community debate and fired heated emotion. The Hindmarsh Island
bridge, for instance, which I drove over last night in about a
minute, split not only the local community, but South Australians and
it rent asunder the Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal women themselves. The
first feisty group of Aboriginal women stalled not only the bridge
construction but plans for the whole Hindmarsh Island Marina for years
before the matter ended up in the Supreme Court. Yet, the environment
where we now walk this icy Sunday morning is simply beautiful as the
River Murray meanders snake-like through the upmarket housing estate,
filling rapidly with cheek-by-jowel apartment blocks and McMansions
each with their own jetties. The controversy was caused not only by a
stoush between the developers, the Chapman family and Aboriginal women
who claimed the region was “secret women’s business”, but by another
group of Aboriginal women who said they knew of no such thing.
When the whole issue was resolved, the bridge was built and the marina
and housin g estate developed quickly.

Recently, there was a small ceremony by the bridge as reconciliation
between the government and the Ngarrindjeri women, with the government
admitting there was substance to their claims of “secret women’s
business” surrounding the land where I now walk.

By the time we returned to Arcadia Avenue for breakfast, I know that I
am going to enjoy my sea-change, because Monsieur and I are going to
live on Hindmarsh Island. We will be moving to our waterfront rental
accommodation with its jetty at the bottom of the garden in September
and life is expected to become as leisurely as the water birds I have
watched so intently this morning.

Goolwa Regatta Yacht Club raises funds for disabled

The Goolwa Regatta Yacht Club was a sea of French-style berets on
Saturday for a fund-raiser for Sailability which featured the very
chic Lisette and Her Faux Manouches.
Fresh from a four and a half star performance at the Adelaide Cabaret,
Lisette, alias Cathy Lawrence, who looks and sounds a little like
Edith Piaf, kept us spell-bound with her soulful renditions of great
French classics.
Buoyed by her little glass of port (to keep her warm in her slinky,
sleeveless gown on the bitterly cold August night) she also sang songs
from other cultures.
We all joined in singing an irrelevant version of La Vie En Pose with
words by Dvishti Rankin made up of lines of nonsensical French words
such as ..fait accompli, maison,. creme de menthe… etc. And the
throng of francophiles (women with their berets, fishnet stockings and
slinky short skirts and men with their cravats) would not have been
out of place in a Paris nightclub.

The fun event was held for a good cause – to help cover costs of
Sailability is sailing for the disabled whereby disabled children and
adults of all ages are taught to sail in dual control 303 access


It must be 20 years ago since I interviewed Perri Cutten, who was
still single then and I was impressed by her elegance and style. So
it is not surprising to learn this week at the Lyceum Club’s luncheon
“Perri Cutten- a woman of fashion” that elegance is the key word to
describe Perri Curren’s summer range now in stores. (A few decades

Perri Cutten’s long-time sales manager Suzy Hooper spoke of “:the
Grace Kelly look” and all that refinery of hats, gloves, designer
bags. While classic basic colours of navy and white and black and
white still rule, the Perri Cutten range will include touches of
colour, particularly bright “mango” and yet another perennial
favourite – animal prints in its Safari look.
As a testament to the classic style and endurance of Perri Cutten’s
label, Lyceum Club members were asked to wear some PC numbers from
their wardrobes – and surprise, surprise, Dianne Colton and Judy
Little both wore a dark animal print shirt – and neither gal felt
Suzy had returned from a day’s briefing in Melbourne and enthused
about the quality cotton and imported linen fabrics, silk and jersey
blouses, stylish buttons and belts which complete the PC tailored

She related a snippet from Perri’s early days when she brought her
first range to Adeliade and booked into the Adelaide Inn in North
Adelaide for appointments with retailers. “No-one showed up the first
day and she thought “Oh, this is it!”, but, in Adelaide style, on teh
second day, they all came and she was on her way here,” recalled

Perri has received an Honorary Doctorate from Swinbourne University
for her outstanding contribution to Australian fashion. She has moved
into a new phase of life with her daughters grown and she and her
partner are “enjoying a more leisurely life”.