LA VARENNE. Little is known about the life of François Pierre (1618–1678), who signed with the name La Varenne. One account states that he was born in the Burgundian town of Chalon-sur-Saône and died in Dijon in 1678, and we know that from approximately 1640 to 1650 he worked in the kitchens of the Marquis d'Uxelles. His fame is due to the publication, in 1651, of Le Cuisinier françois (The French cook), the first of a new generation of cookbooks to document the changes that had taken place in French cuisine during the first half of the seventeenth century, and by far the most popular. Cooks were abandoning the use of spices that typified medieval and Renaissance cookery and replacing them with native European herbs: parsley, thyme, bay leaf, basil, etc. Many recipes, which are still popular with French chefs today—bisque and various ragoûts, for instance—are mentioned for the first time in Le Cuisinier François. La Varenne emphasizes the use of the roux, almost systematically employs a bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs) in stews and soups, and is the first to publish a recipe for Oeufs à la neige (snow eggs). His was also the first French cookbook to be translated into English (1653).
Although some have attributed other works to La Varenne, most notably Le Pâtissier françois (The French pastry chef) and Le Confiturier françois (The French confectioner), recent scholarship has shown that there is little reason to believe that he is the author of these texts.
See also Chef; Cookbooks; France.
Flandrin, Jean-Louis, Philip Hyman, and Mary Hyman. Introduction to Le Cuisinier françois by La Varenne. Paris: Editions Montalba,1983.
Hyman, Philip, and Mary Hyman. Introduction to The French Cook by La Varenne. Southover, Lewes, England: Southover Press, 2001.
Mary Hyman Philip Hyman