One hundred and one ways to cook an egg. Hmmmm. Might not seem like much of an achievement on first thought but have you ever tried to list 101 ways to cook an egg?
Graduates of culinary arts schools can list them. They can cook ‘em up, too.
Today’s culinary arts schools are developed to follow the teachings of French chef extraordinaire Auguste Escoffier, who is credited with developing the style of cooking now known as Classic French.
There were no culinary arts schools in Escoffier’s day. Instead, chefs, all men at the time, had to learn their trade on the job through a very long apprenticeship that often started when the boy was a young teen and lasted until he was almost 30 before he could qualify to call himself a chef.
With no culinary arts schools in which to train, Escoffier, who lived from 1846 to 1935, gleaned his knowledge in the kitchens of some of the very finest hotels in Paris and London.
It was Escoffier who streamlined commercial kitchen operations with the same hierarchy and almost military precision that is applied in culinary arts schools today, too. He wrote the job descriptions for the chef, sous chef, the assistants, the prep cooks, and even the dishwashers.
Leaving his mark on every aspect of a commercial kitchen operation today, Escoffier’s work included some specialized cooking techniques, knife skills, and traditional ingredients, which soon become second nature to students in today’s culinary arts schools. Without mastering these time-honored techniques and skills, graduation just won’t happen.
Escoffier even designed the uniforms chefs wear on the job and in modern culinary arts schools. Every part of the uniform, including the traditional houndstooth pattern of the pants, is there for a reason that serves more of a function than makes a fashion statement.
For the sake of simplicity, students in today’s culinary arts schools all wear the same kind of toque, or chef’s hat, but those who train abroad in the traditional apprenticeship manner, especially in France, follow Escoffier’s example to the letter. The different shapes and sizes of the toques designate rank, from apprentice all the way up to chef d’cuisine. It’s this guy that wears the tallest hat with the most pleats around it.
But what about those 101 eggs? It’s all in the pleats. Every pleat in a chef’s hat represents one way to cook an egg. It’s only when a cook has earned the tallest hat, the one with 101 pleats in it, that he, and now she, can truly claim to be a chef.