I wrote a whole book that disproves this long-lived myth. My book was just republished by @Harvard_Press
. It's not a hard book to find. But now @WilliamSitwell
writes a book called "The Restaurant: 2000 Year History" and here it is again! I mean no ill to Mr. Sitwell, but...
"Out-of-work chefs of aristocrats opened restaurants after the Fr Revn" is a myth central to the notion of French restaurants as a _democratization_ of pleasure. It's a conceit formed in reaction to (against) the revolution's real politics. See https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674241770
Think about it. By the time the aristos (some of them) flee France--certainly with war 1792--being one of their former servants isn't going to give you lots of start-up business opportunities. It's more likely to get you labeled an enemy of the nation, a counter-revolutionary.
The emblematic meal of the French Revolution wasn't a restaurant dinner cooked by former chef of Duke or Prince, but the so-called "Fraternal Banquet." Here's one image from @GallicaBnF
Note the Liberty Tree, Liberty Caps, tricolor flag. This is the *ideal* of 1793-4.
In reality, precious few such banquets were held (became important form under 3rd Rep, 100 years later). Few banquets because war + civil war caused food shortages. Because peasants (food producers) widely suspected of price gouging. Because neighborly feeling not really SO high.
So why is it said French Rev created restaurants? 1793-94 radical measures (wage-price controls, economic regulation) overturned in name of "freedom... ending the terror." Revolution after 1795 is very much about liberty, not equality. Stuff & Money, ch6 https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674975422
As "post"-Terror lawmakers abandoned social, monetary policies of 1792-4, prices soared, local admin foundered, much of France near anarchy. Bonaparte's army meanwhile "lived on the land" (sacked, pillaged) won battles, grew metaphorically fat. So too did army suppliers, etc.
The prolific, very readable author L S Mercier wrote a series of vignettes called "The New Paris." Mercier was a committed republican (jailed as a Girondin) horrified that 6+ years of revolution had created chaos, misery, AND a tiny group of fabulously wealthy war profiteers.
When Mercier described Paris restaurants in 1797-8, he was writing political criticism, social satire. (This is from Invention of the Restaurant, p. 143)
British travelers flocked to Paris during 1802 Peace of Amiens; they too saw restaurants. ONE famous one (Beauvilliers) *was* operated by a former aristo chef (but opened in 1780s). It wasn't democratization any more than Moscow restaurants in 1990s https://www.nytimes.com/1998/03/18/dining/eating-out-in-moscow-theme-park-cuisine.html
The field of Food Studies/Food History has grown enormously since _The Invention of the Restaurant_ was first published. I couldn't begin to list all great work. Jeffrey Pilcher on Mexican food, Edward Wang's history of chopsticks, Emma Spary's books on food/history of science.
[Finis] There are now so many good, well researched, thoughtful books on history of food + eating that it's a bit of a shock to encounter one that recycles tired myths, platitudes. Maybe it was just the interview format? This whole thread provoked by https://lithub.com/how-will-restaurants-reinvent-themselves-post-lockdown/
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.