Foodservice Industry History

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A series of historical, cultural, and technological factors has brought the foodservice industry to the position it occupies today. The history of cooking is undoubtedly almost as old as that of mankind itself. The contemporary status of the foodservice industry as a whole is a direct reflection of man’s development. Almost all areas of human endeavor have had an influence.

The Culinary Institute of America has published the major historical influences in the foodservice industry:

Conquest, travel and Exploration

The quest to conquer other landss has been one of the most potent influences in the growth and development of cooking.

The Greeks and Romans were perhaps the most effective at bringing about changees that altered completely the eating habits of most Estern hemisphere inhabitants. As each nation they encountered was conquered, the delicacies and choicest goods of that country became their “property”. Leavened breads, sweet wines, forcemeats, sauces, and “composed dishes” all became part of the Greek repertoire after they fought to gain control of Egypt, Persia, Babylonia and India. When the Romans marched through what would one day become Europe, they spread their recipes for dishes that called for a variety of seasonings, pickles, cheeses, and special cakes and breads. Several of these influences can still be seen today; exampples are the sweet-sour sauces of modern Italy and the sauerkraut or sauerbraten of modern Germany.

Travel began to diminish, as the world moved into the Dark Ages. Most of the rich cooking styles, and the books that discussed food and cookery, were safeguarded in monasteries while the people outside their walls continued to prepare the rough, simple dishes that had sustained them for generations. Eventually Europeans traveled to the Americas and the West Indies, returning with such native foods as chocolate,chilies, beans, corn, tomatoes, and potatoes, mny of which were at first regarded as poisonous.

A resurgence of travel by the wealthy came with the end of the Dark Ages. New models f travel, such as improved ships able to make long sea journeys, made it possible for the noble classes to move with grater freedom, carrying their own approach to foods and cookery with them, but also being influenced by the foods that they found.

Inmigrants traveling from one country to another, whether to escape religious persecution or to try to find a better life, also carried with them their traditional dishes and ways of cooking. People coming to the United States brought with them special drinks, breads, cakes, and other foods that eventually were intermingled with the food brought by previous arrivals and with indigenous foods. In the United States, the soldiers who fought in the World Wars returned to this country with a newly acquired taste for the traditional foods of France, Italy, and Germany.

Today, travel influences the types of cuisines featured in contemporary restaurants. Foods from the Caribbean, the Middle East, and previously lesser-known French and Italian regions have become more familiar as the world continues to “shrink”.

Chefs and patrons alike are discovering the pleasures of foods from countries as diverse as Portugal, Thailand, and New Zealand. And just as travel has made it easier for the guest to get to the food, it is also a far simpler, faster, and cheaper matter to get food from all over the world to the chef’s kitchen.

Royalty and the Rise of the Middle Class

European royal families often intermarried for reasons of state and to form political alliances. With the union of these families came a blending of the customs of different countries. This mingling resulted not only in the spread of cooking styles and special dishes, but in an exchange of social etiquette as well.

Once the monarchies and the feudal system began to decline, a change occurred in the social structure. The chefs who had once worked in royal households took position in the wealthy homes of a newly rich and “nonnoble” class. The result was an expansion of the cuisine of the nobility, first to the upper class, and eventually to the large and growing middle class.

The gradual dissolution of strict class lines, and the ability of people to move from the lower class to the middle or upper classes, allowed the cookery of the upper class or nobility, known as haute cuisine, to blend with the cooking of hearth and home, cuisine bourgeoise. This exchange between domestic cooks and classically trained chefs in all countries produced a number of innovations and refinements. The effect was to spur growth and change, and to keep classic cooking from becoming dull and stale.

Science and Technology on foodservice industry

Advances in farm technology have increased yields and improved quality and availability. Animal husbandry, through the ability to breed desirable characteristics in and undesirable ones out, now allows us to raise animals that have better yield and flavor and less fat.

Equipment and tools have undergone a similar evolution, from the rudimentary cutting tools and cooking vessels that first allowed men to cook foods in liquids to the gas and electric stoves, microwave ovens, and computerized equipment of today. Refrigeration allows foods to be held longer and shipped farther, without significant loss of quality.

Scientific developments have allowed us to improve on techniques for food storage, increasing both the shelf life and wholesomeness of foods and reducing to incidence of food spoilage, contamination, and poisoning.  Examples of these technical advances include pasteurization, freeze drying, vacuum packing, and irradiation.

Improved methods of transportation male possible the availability of food from other geographic areas and the ability to use foods once considered “out of season”. High-quality produce is now available year-round, and special items once usable onnly in the area where they are produced are now available worldwide.

Nutrition, a relatively young science, has also had an impact. As we continue to learn more about how the foods we eat are converted to energy and affect the body, old cooking techniques have been updated and new techniques found. The foodservice industry is thus able to keep in step with a society concerned both with health and fitness and with dining well.