Louis Diat is probably best known for inventing Vichyssoise (or more correctly Crème Vichyssoise Glacée) in 1917 when he was chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York. This extract, however, concerns sauces rather than soups and is taken from Sauces, French and Famous, by Louis Diat, first published in Great Britain in 1955 by Hammond and Hammond. M. Diat paints a vivid picture of a nervous young trainee in the kitchen of a great chef awaiting the verdict on his sauces.
In my training to be a chef, the work with sauces was the most important part of a long and arduous apprenticeship. I look back upon the fourteen-hour days - sometimes longer - at the Maison Calondre in Moulins, where I first learned how professionals make sauces and how they use them. I recall only too clearly my days in the great kitchens of the Paris Ritz, where I had the opportunity of perfecting my skill under its famous saucier. I can see myself, a very young sous chef, in front of a hot range pushing and turning a sturdy wooden spatula as the sauces reduced in the big copper pans, and standing with bated breath while the chef des cuisines went through his daily routine of tasting the sauces for the day The practised eye and sensitive tongue of this culinary expert could detect the slightest deviation from perfection and his Gallic temper soon let the kitchen know it. Zut! Down the sink drain would go what we had thought a perfectly good sauce, and to the tune of a torrent of French fury. The saucier would yell for fresh butter, cream, stock, egg yolks or whatever was needed. Then all over again the big wooden spatula would be pushed back and forth and around, back and forth and around in the big copper pan. And more often than not the hand trembled a bit, because it was no secret that too many mishaps could suddenly cut short one’s ambition to rise to be a great saucier and following that, on to the final pinnacle, a chef des cuisines in one’s own right.