Cook: The Development of the Profession

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Dalby (2003a) has a useful sketch of cooks in the ancient world: freemen in Greece, but slaves in Rome. The professional cook does not seem to have existed, he says, in archaic Greece, but in classical Athens and other cities the mageiros was an essential officer and organizer of the animal sacrifice. The self-importance of cooks was a theme of comedies in Greece (see Wilkins 2000), and their excesses at grand feasts provided rich material for Petronius’ Satyricon. Those cooks who were not slaves worked freelance, cooking feasts for those who could not afford a proper kitchen staff.