Nouvelle Cuisine is a culinary trend born in France in the 1970s, characterized by freshness, lightness, and delicacy of the dishes.
A new cuisine that has transformed haute cuisine in cooking, assembling, and presenting dishes whose principles are the involvement of the senses and the stimulation of the use of perceptions.
A movement that revolutionized French haute cuisine by highlighting the natural flavor of food, reducing the use of fat, and giving it a new aesthetic.
Nouvelle Cuisine – The revolution of French haute cuisine
Nouvelle Cuisine, the movement that culminated in the revolution of French haute cuisine in the 1970s, began to be designed in the 1950s. The resumption of industrialization, new technologies, and medical advances in the post-war period.
As well as the trend for a healthier diet that began to value regional cuisines.
The growing exchange between world cultures led French Chefs to constant visits to Japan to teach French cuisine and learn Japanese cooking.
A revolution solidified by gastronomic critics Henri Gault and Cristian Millau of the Michelin Guide, renowned guide of French gastronomy and creators of the French restaurant guide Gault et Millau and the name Nouvelle Cuisine.
As well as the design, style, and foundations of this new gastronomy with the launch of the “10 Commandments of Nouvelle Cuisine” in 1973.
The 10 Commandments of Nouvelle Cuisine
- Cooking is a creative art in which the chef and the “dinner” are in dialogue. Food is the primary medium for this dialogue, but all sensory aspects of the dining experience, should also contribute to it;
- Culinary rules conventions and traditions should be understood, but they should not disallow or prevent the creation of new dishes;
- Culinary creativity when it breaks rules and traditions, creates a powerful way to make the diner think about a dining experience;
- Diners have expectations about the food to be served, some explicit, some not. Surprising them with foods that challenge their expectations is another way to engage them intellectually. This includes putting familiar flavors into unorthodox forms or vice versa;
- In addition to surprise, many other emotions, reactions, feelings, and thoughts can be provoked by modernist cuisine, including fantasy, satire, and nostalgia. The modernist chef’s repertoire is not only taste and texture, but also the range of emotional and intellectual reactions that food can inspire in diners;
- Creativity, invention, and innovation are intrinsic to the role of the modernist chef. However, when using ideas or know-how from other chefs, we should always credit them;
- Science and technology are sources that can be used in the creation of new dishes or cooking techniques, however, these are the means, not the end goal;
- We should evaluate the ingredients and the fundamentals of cooking, ingredients like truffles and foie gras have the same weight as the other ingredients;
- Ingredients originating from food science and technology, such as hydrocolloids, enzymes, etc., are powerful tools, without which, it would be impossible to prepare some dishes;
- Chefs and diners should be sensitive to the conditions under which food is grown, harvested, or slaughtered. Wherever possible we should look for sustainable and environmentally friendly sources.
The embryo of nouvelle Cuisine was the 3-star restaurant of Chef Fernand Point in the small town of Vienne, near Lyon. Considered the mentor of the exponents of this cuisine for only using fresh ingredients, prepared on the spot and never the day before.
And, mainly due to the great chefs of the time: Alain Chapel, Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé, and Raymond Oliver and headed by Paul Bocuse and Jean Pierre Troisgros.
Nouvelle Cuisine – The Creative Autonomy of Chefs
The great revolution accomplished by nouvelle Cuisine was the amplification of the creative autonomy of the Chefs, from the renovation and modernization of the cuisine that removed the hegemony of the traditional cuisine of French gastronomy.
By disassociating haute cuisine from luxury, devaluing the importance of refined settings and the use of expensive products in the preparation of dishes, to put in evidence the talent of the Chefs.
A revolution that promoted an inventive cuisine based on simplicity, with a reduced menu that values fresh products, the limitation of heavy spices, the reduction of excessive cooking, and the use of new techniques and technologies.
A new creative cuisine, which from studying the new possibilities of ingredients and traditions and observing the unique demands of consumer society, offers new sensations by combining meat or fish with fruit, unique aromas, and sweet, salty, and sour flavors in smaller portions.
Prepared in reduced time and displayed with decorative elegance on large plates in counterpoint to the classic cuisine, exalting the taste and original colors of the ingredients, respecting the seasonality, freshness, and taste of the products.
In short, Nouvelle Cuisine is the modernist revolution of French haute cuisine that brought creative autonomy to Chefs to enhance the sensory and natural identity of ingredients.
Through new, more natural, and shorter cooking methods, they were cooking raw fish and meat and other ingredients separately and a refined look at the dish’s presentation as to the color composition and shape of the elements.
Modern architecture. Compositional visual artworks of oriental aesthetics are presented on larger porcelain plates, white and without decoration, with combinations of small amounts of ingredients.
Undoubtedly, the introduction of totally white plates of large dimensions that do not interfere with the chromatic composition of the food was an outstanding contribution of Nouvelle Cuisine to the creative freedom of Chefs.
For presenting themselves as canvases on which the kitchen artists began to create true works of culinary art.
On the other hand, the reduction of the amount of food on the plate and the blank spaces introduced the expression of gastronomic minimalism, The Minimal Art of the 1960s.
In this way, Nouvelle Cuisine takes up the Japanese minimalist style in asymmetry, spontaneity, and respect for natural elements creating a modern visual aesthetic.
In summary, Nouvelle Cuisine gives a new role to the recipe through the valorization of ingredients and naturalization of food through cooking and the combination of elements.
Besides, of course, a creative opening in creating and presenting the dishes.
In short, the basic principles of Nouvelle Cuisine are the involvement of the senses and the stimulation of perceptions to create lighter dishes with reduced calories, salt, sugar, fats, heavy sauces, and thick pasta, valuing fresh vegetables.
And thus, promote the sense of taste by producing aesthetically harmonized dishes mixing flavors, smells, and textures with total creative freedom.
As such, Nouvelle Cuisine, the modernist revolution of French haute cuisine, impacted French cuisine so that it remains present to this day in one of the most traditional and renowned gastronomies in the world.
Want to introduce Nouvelle Cuisine into your cooking?
So here’s an essential tip:
Never set aside any of your basic rules. I said never!
The basic rules of Nouvelle Cuisine
- Use fresh and good quality products;
- Don’t let it overcook;
- Make your menu lighter;
- Eliminate butter-based sauces;
- Avoid using fermentation, garlic vines, etc;
- Be creative, but not exquisitely modernist;
- Serve only small individual portions with elements harmoniously arranged on white plates;
- Never use tricks to enhance the presentation.