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Thou shalt not overcook: How Gault & Millau’s style freed French chefs

In our series providing a sideways glance at French food, we look at the impact of nouvelle cuisine and how it helped fuel innovation in a strict business

Gault & Millau has set a new standard for French nouvelle cuisine Pic: sylv1rob1 / Shutterstock

While there is no disputing the importance of classical French cuisine – the technical, and often time consuming basics which are still the cornerstone of any young chef’s basic training – we also owe a debt of gratitude to nouvelle cuisine.

The name for this lighter, healthier, and less time-consuming form of French cooking – which broke from the restrictive dogmas established by the likes of ‘grande cuisine’ icons such as Carême and Escoffier – got its first official outing this month in 1974.

It was the monthly gastronomic magazine Gault & Millau, formed five years previously by Henri Gault, Christian Millau and André Gayot, that published its “10 Commandments of Nouvelle Cuisine”.

The commandments, with number 10 perhaps the most important, were: 

I. Thou shalt not overcook.

II. Thou shalt use fresh, quality products. 

III. Thou shalt lighten thy menu.

IV. Thou shalt not be systematically modernist. 

V. Thou shalt nevertheless seek out what the new techniques can bring you.

VI. Thou shalt avoid pickles, cured game meats, fermented foods, etc.

VII. Thou shalt eliminate rich sauces. 

VIII. Thou shalt not ignore dietetics.

IX. Thou shalt not doctor up thy presentations. 

X. Thou shalt be inventive. 

Thus, it was out with Tournedos Rossini and in with low-fat sauces and creativity.

Such was the impact of this new order – plus their restaurant ratings guide already going since 1965 – that Gault and Millau appeared on the cover of Time in 1980.

Gault died in 2000, and Millau in 2017, having changed French cuisine forever.

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