The word restaurant according to the majority of contemporary dictionaries is defined as an eating-place, an establishment where meals are prepared and served to customers. By this definition, restaurants, by whatever name they have been given, are almost as old as civilization (Davidson, 1999). Modern historians, however, take a different view, that restaurants are a recent innovation and can be defined as a particular establishment where one goes to select prepared items of food, arranged on an individual plate, for a predetermined fee. Where ones sits at individual tables, alone or with acquaintances and samples exotic dishes, these are the constituents for what we commonly address as the restaurant. Contrarily, inns and taverns have served food to hungry patrons for millennia but I am not concerned with the mere serving of food, in this essay I will focus instead on how and where it is served.
A restaurant, of the original meaning was the name for a restorative broth, a thing rather than a place. In the fifteenth century a restaurant was a consomm or bouillon (Spang, 2001) cooked with precious gemstones, which, as it was rumoured, had medicinal uses and instigated good health. Up until the eighteenth century, restaurants were for those too fragile to eat a solid meal at night. Restaurants were cooked often without the addition of any liquid and sometimes composed purely of meat, cooked for so long that all of the matter, including bone, flesh and skin, had broken down to liquid essences, allowing it to reach the consumer partially digested. Restaurants were eaten, or drunk rather, in a restaurateurs room, where one lounged and sipped quietly and there was no socialising or frivolity, perhaps like an 18th century urban spa for the delicate (Flandrin & Montarri, 1999).
In 1765 a man named Boulanger, also known as Champ d Oiseaux (Flandrin & Montarri, 1999), purveyor of a restaurateurs room near the Louvre, was not content in just serving restaurants to the frail.
Boulanger began to serve sheep feet in a white sauce, which stepped largely on the toes of the caterers guild. The French work force at the time was highly compartmentalised and held together with bylaws into twenty-five different guilds. The butchers were to sell raw domestic meat, only rotisseurs sold prepared game, charcutiers sold sausages and hams, vinegar-makers sold vinegar, pastry-cooks sold pastry (Flandrin & Montarri, 1999) and the caterers guild monopolised the market in being the only cook-caterers legally able sell full meals to large parties. These traiteurs (cook-caterers) filed suit, as no tradesman was legally able to combine these functions as to what would be the constituents of todays restaurant. Boulanger was accused of selling not a restaurant but a ragout (Spang, 2001) and this case went all the way to the French High Court. To the bewilderment of Parisian society the judgement was found in Boulangers favour but after a series of appeals the courts found in favour of the caterers guild.
Restaurateurs were banned from selling anything other than a bouillon and sadly they never formed a guild of their own. Boulanger has been accredited with the invention of the restaurant proper but this is unfounded and the real restaurant came from another proprietor of a restaurateurs room (Spang, 2001).
Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau, the son of a merchant and landowner, moved to Paris in the early 1760s and tried to get going an assortment of ideas he believed would enrich him and his country at the same time. He had many interests and several occupations; he tried twice to set up an odd system of credit to get France out of economic crisis, was a purveyor of restaurants, founder of a private bank, manager of an information office and organizer of an information directory. In 1766, Roze launched an establishment in Paris that alleged to serve “only those foods that either maintain or re-establish health.” (Spang, 2001) This is accredited as the first proper restaurant.
Roze was neither a creative connoisseur nor an imaginative chef; needless to say, the “invention” of the restaurant was one of Roze’s many commerce driven ventures that set out to salvage France from debt. Through the motion of credit notes, Roze proposed to resolve the .