It’s no secret that the French have always enjoyed great cuisine, and Louis XV was no exception. He took as his mistress a young woman named Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse Du Barry, whose father was a cook.
Madame du Barry, however, had a taste for cuisine other than the rich and heavy food that had been omnipresent in 18th Century France. In fact, she promoted lighter yet still flavorful dishes designed to tickle the tastebuds without inducing the food coma that came along after heartier fare. She did, however, enjoy drinking chocolate, and encouraged Louis to partake as it was believed to be an aphrodisiac!
A most interesting aspect of her culinary creativity is that she hired a female chef de cuisine. This was at a time when only men were in the kitchens of the upper echelons of France. Her influence grew and French culinary history changed as women began taking charge in kitchens of the French aristocracy.
So confident of her chef was Madame Du Barry that when Louis XV boasted that the only good chefs were men, she invited the king to a meal prepared by her chef. Louis was thrilled with the meal and asked about the new man who was her cook. She retorted that it was a woman and suggested that since even the King himself was impressed, she should be awarded the Cordon-Bleu, an honor bestowed only on men to date.
Many dishes even today are associated with Madame Du Barry, particularly ones that involve cauliflower. One consists of cauliflower flowerets covered with Mornay Sauce, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and grated cheese that is then baked and browned. Another is a cream cauliflower soup.
So when you see a recipe with “Dubarry” or “Du Barry” in its name, you know the famous – and sometimes infamous – lady recounted by the dish.
THE QUICK BITE: Madame Du Barry, Mistress to Louis XV of France, was not only a force in his bedroom but also in his kitchen. She brought women into the picture of professional chefs in France.