Food Facts & Lore

The First Restaurants

Illustration from L’art du Cuisinier – 1814 – Antoine Beauvilliers

This begins our newest segment: an exploration of food facts, inventions and oddities presented in random food bites to nourish the mind and imagination. Enjoy.

Early eateries consisted in simple Inns offering a bed and a warm meal to travelers. The concept dates back to the ninth century, CE. There was no menu, but rather a single dish, stew-like in Europe. Bread, wine and ale were common fare as well. The supply was limited. A late-day arrival might mean bed without “breakfast.” The word “Restaurant” comes from a French verb meaning “to Restore.” It is easy to see the connection between long journeys and the need to refuel as the obvious inspiration for the name.

French Gastronome Antoine Beauvilliers (1754-1817) is credited with establishing the first recognized modern restaurant in Paris in the early 1780’s. It offered three distinct innovations under one roof: a choice of selections served by a trained crew in a purposefully decorated establishment. It was named “Taverne de Londres,” as he was much influenced by English traditions. Service was at the very core of Beauvilliers’ philosophy, and many believe that we owe him today’s most refined aspects of the restaurant experience, namely, the personal connection between patron and service crew.

Beauvilliers published “L’Art du Cuisinier” (The Art of The Cook) in 1814. It offered an innovative perspective for the time, exploring all aspects of commercial food preparation, food service and restaurant management as a precise science. It soon became THE reference for the culinary arts of the time.

There are over 15 million restaurants in the world, 620,000 plus in the US alone.