The History (and Legends) of the Modern Restaurant

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE WINTER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE, via The Plate

PHOTOGRAPH BY STEVE WINTER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE, via The Plate

Legend has it that a soup salesman named Boulanger opened the first modern restaurant 250 years ago in Paris. But when one historian went looking for proof, she found things were not so clear.

Back in the 18th century, few city-dwellers had the means for personal kitchens at home. So before a brasserie sprung up on every corner, they ate from communal platters laid out for inn guests or bought oysters and such from street vendors. If they had a little more time and money to spend, they could visit multiple traiteurs (cook caterers) specialized in particular trades or guilds, like roasting meat or baking bread.

Everything changed with Monsieur Boulanger around 1765, at least, according to the bible of French gastronomy, Larousse Gastronomique.

Read the rest on The Plate.

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