Caterina de’ Medici

Who comes to mind, if I ask..Who was the first celebrity chef? Julia Child. I’m sure. But I’m talking classics here...and that’s where we’ll travel to this week by exploring people who have made their mark on food and more importantly, the further development of cuisine. You could say I owe the starting point in my culinary career to them. 

An important figure of the Renaissance, Caterina de’ Medici became one of the first influential people in culinary history. She's known as the Italian Queen Mother of France's high cuisine; Caterina de’ Medici (1519-1589) of Florence. During the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century she imported a new style of refined cooking to France, as we know it today.


In 1533, at the age of fourteen, Caterina married Henry of Orlèans; the future king of France. With that important event she brought a large group of cooks and servants to accompany her to France. The Florentine cooks who accompanied her immigrated a unique style of Italian cooking and ingredients to France; including peas, beans, artichokes, duck cooked in orange, aka canard a l’orange, and onion soup. The pastry cooks offered a style unknown to the French at the time; preparing pasta, pastries, sorbets, ice creams, marmalades, and fruits poached in syrup. This was a major turing point in cuisine for them. BTW, the frangipane tart is named after Sir Frangipani.

Caterina de’ Medici also established a new etiquette at the French dining table; by serving meals in courses, separating sweet and savory foods. Keep in mind at the time, sweets were still eaten at the same time with savory meat; that was the common in medieval times. I know a few people who may be fond of the later and rather start with dessert. At that time, French cooking already was evolving and the presence of this new style had an influence on the future of French cuisine. 

The people of France were taught Florentine elegance by Caterina as she introduced gracious table settings and dining habits, embroidered napery, along with silverware and hand blown glassware.   

Take part in the Italian Renaissance and prepare my Onion Soup Recipe. Just do as Caterina and serve with style.