Taillevent

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Taillevent (c.1312–95) the 14th-century chef of the French court who achieved enduring fame when an important collection of recipes, attributed to him (although many may have come from an earlier manuscript source), was published. This was the first printed French cookery book. Taillevent’s career has been well summarized by Anne Willan (1977):

Taillevent—his real name was Guillaume Tirel, but many apprentices in those days picked up nicknames that they never outgrew—must have been quite a character, for a remarkable amount is known about him in an age when most craftsmen, like the builders of the Gothic cathedrals, passed forgotten into history. In 1326, when he was about fourteen, he was a happelapin (kitchen boy) to Queen Jeanne of France and was charged with the unenviable task of turning the great roasting spits before the open fire. By 1346 Taillevent had risen to keu (cook) to King Philip VI, and in 1349 he was granted a house ‘in consideration of the good and pleasant service the king has received.’ Soon after, he was raised to the rank of écuyer, or squire, and passed from household to household within the Valois family until, in 1381, he was at the top of his profession as master cook to King Charles VI. He probably compiled Le Viandier a few years earlier with the encouragement of King Charles V, known as Charles the Wise for his fine judgement and cultivated tastes.