The Omnivore’s Outtake: Escoffier’s French Brigade

May 22 2014, 10:30 AM

When I interviewed Steven Redzikowski for this month’s review of Acorn, there were several instances where the conversation felt like a throwback to walking past Mrs. Prestel’s high school French class. Before Acorn and Oak at Fourteenth, the executive chef—who nabbed this year’s Food & Wine People’s Choice for Best New Chef Southwest—spent time in the lionized kitchens of Le CirqueJean-GeorgesFrasca Food and WineThe Little Nell, and the late-Cyrus. When describing how he and Acorn executive sous chef Amos Watts met at Cyrus in Sonoma County, Redzikowski threw around words like “saucier” and “entremet” (short for entremetier) as fluently as other chefs say “line cook” and “dishwasher.”

Of course, saucier and entremetier are just two stations in the larger brigade system that Auguste Escoffier modeled after the French military in the late 1800s. These terms still endure more than one hundred years later in the kitchens of some of the world’s most formal restaurants. Although they are less commonly used here in Denver (even nationally-celebrated restaurants like Rioja and Fruition don’t employ them), they are terms that those who follow the industry should understand: There is a big difference between chef de cuisine and garçon de cuisine, which means “kitchen boy.”

Chef de cuisine Literally “chief of kitchen” in French

Sous chef This “under chef” is second in command

Chefs de partie Chefs who oversee a station, as listed below:

– Charcutier The cook in charge of pâtés, rillettes, and other charcuterie items

– Entremetier The person in charge of egg dishes, pastas, vegetables, and garnishes

– Friturier The employee in charge of fried foods

– Garde Manger The cook in charge of salads and other cold larder items

– Grillardin The person in charge of grilled foods

– Pâtissier The staffer in charge of baked goods and desserts

– Poissonier The cook in charge of fish dishes

– Rotisseur The person in charge of roasted items

– Saucier The employee in charge of sauces

Tournant An experienced cook who rotates and fills in where needed

Commis Junior cook within a station

Aboyeur An expediter who receives orders from servers, calls them out to the kitchen, and assembles plates before a runner takes them to the table

Plongeur Dishwasher

For many, these titles are an important vestige of culinary history. But even Redzikowski, a man whose resume is littered with them, uses such terms sparingly. In fact, Redzikowski reports that he hates being called “chef” by his cooks. “You are only as good as your staff,” the owner says.

Follow Stacey Brugeman on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @denveromnivore.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock