The Words of Fernand Point

I’ve recently been re-reading the new edition of MA GASTRONOMIE by Fernand Point and have again been taken by jottings from his notebook, some of which I have included below.

  • As far as cuisine is concerned, one must read everything, see everything, hear everything, try everything, observe everything, in order to retain, in the end, just a little bit!
  • The most difficult dishes to make generally appear to be the simplest.
  • All men fraternize at the table, especially when one has enchanted their souls.
  • If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony.
  • There are many people who claim to be good cooks; just as there are many people who, after having repainted the garden gate, take themselves to be painters.
  • When one thinks of le grande cuisine one cannot think of money; the two are incompatible. La grande cuisine is extremely expensive — but that does not mean one cannot do very good cooking with inexpensive ingredients.
  • When I stop in a restaurant I don’t know, I always ask to shake hands with the cuisiner before the meal. I know if he is thin, I’ll probably eat poorly. And if he is both thin and sad, the only hope is in flight.
  • Before judging a thin man, one must get some information. Perhaps he was once fat.
  • A good apprentice cook must be as polite with the dishwasher as with the chef.
  • Success is the sum of a lot of small things correctly done.
  • In all professions without doubt, but certainly in cooking, one is a student all his life.
  • One must be able to withstand a disagreeable remark. Strong spirits hold no grudges.
  • The great gastronome, Charles Monselet, died on Christmas eve. Foreseeing his death, he told his intimate friends: “I shall have a funeral with truffles.” When I die, I should like the same.
  • One of the most important things that distinguish man from other animals is that man can get pleasure from drinking without being thirsty.The duty of a good cuisiner is to transmit to the generations who will replace him everything he has learned and experienced.
  • I have been so well nurtured throughout my life that I’m sure to die completely cured.

Point’s prescribed method for testing new cooks in his kitchen was to ask them to fry an egg (still a common practice). When they inevitably failed, Point would offer the following method, which shows his incredible attention to detail: Place a lump of fresh butter in a pan or egg dish and let it melt – that is, just enough to melt, and never, of course, to crackle or spit; open a very fresh egg onto a small plate or saucer and slide it carefully into the pan; cook it on heat so low that the white turns creamy, and the yolk becomes hot but remains liquid; in a seperate saucepan, melt another lump of fresh butter; remove the egg onto a lightly heated serving plate; salt & pepper it, then very gently pour over the melted butter.

And, finally, the remarks of dramatist Romain Coolus after dining at Point’s restaurant in Vienne, Restaurant de la Pyramide, in January 1932:

From wherever may come
My future girth,
I loath it! Because I wish that from Vienne
It should come through my friend Point!

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