Escoffier revolutionised the way fine dining kitchens were organized, with his “Brigade” division of labour system. He also instilled strict hygiene standards and made the Chefs’ traditional white toques and uniforms into the worldwide industry standard they have become today.
Managing a business empire like the Ritz hotels required outstanding organizational skills. At the Savoy, and decades before Henry Ford, Escoffier had re-organized the kitchen with a radically new approach: the “brigade system”. Kitchen staff was divided into specialist groups for fish, sauces, meats etc. Unlike the old model where chefs cooked everything and then moved to the next order, the plate now moved from station to station. The aim was to ensure that food was served efficiently, at the same time and at exactly the right temperature. Escoffier’s kitchens were so efficient that he could cater for up to 500 people at a time. The brigade system has been ever since a global standard for high-end restaurants.
Another global standard in the culinary world today is the traditional chef’s uniform and toque. Initially developed in France, it was Escoffier who brought the uniform to London for hygiene purposes, and contributed to its widespread adoption in the industry. He also banned smoking and drinking among kitchen staff. While at the beginning of Escoffier’s career, cooking was not a profession held in high esteem, he helped transform 19th century kitchens into respectable places to work. Perhaps one of his greatest contributions was the sense of pride he brought to the culinary industry.