Storing and preserving food traced back as early as 3000 BCE. During that time, people had learned farming and herding skills. But one of their problems was ensuring a steady food supply for a long period of time. This compelled them to find ways to keep their raw food eatable after several days, weeks or even months: Fish and meat were salted and dried under the sun or hung near the fire wherein the smoke dried and flavored them. These methods, still used even in the modern kitchen, were included in the elements of garde manger. The phrase garde manger, literally translated as “keeping to eat” originated in France prior to the Revolution.
It referred to the gathering, keeping and storing of raw foods, including the sanitation, for year round use. That time, the privilege to collect and store food for future consumption, given only to rich and noble families, indicated high status in the society; thus, garde manger represented power, wealth, prestige and rank. Later on, the term garde manger replaced de Boucher as the title that referred to the steward or the member of the household staff who managed the store room, thus the other interpretation of garde manger, “keeper of food,” sprouted.
The job of the garde manger was relatively sensitive and important since much of the food he monitored was butchered, pickled, salted, cured, sweetened or smoked during the fall season to be used during the winter. The risk of damage was so high that spoilage would occur if not handled correctly. It was his duty to observe proper ways of preserving so that the items would last for a long time. He must also secure the sanitation of the room, making sure that it was free of pests like rats and cockroaches. Water or moisture could spoil the food, so the store room must be dry.
The steward was also tasked to supervise the dispensing procedures of the food in the storage area. In other words, it was the job of the garde manger to take care of the food in the storage area and see to it that it would last for the whole year or, at least, until the spring season. The store room was usually placed in the lower level of the castle or manor that housed noble personalities. The environment in a cool and dark basement was ideal for storing food. Most of the food in the storage room was intended for consumption, to be eaten.
However, some of it was combined with livestock, precious metals and properties to be given as dowries or used as currency to buy goods. Later on, guidelines and rules that define the trade of garde manger were set. The guild was born. It was an organization of working men with the same craft or trade and provided protection for those people. It had two categories: raw foods and prepared or cooked foods. One purpose of the guild was to preserve the skills of the workers, thus it provided training programs to develop the skills in preserving foods and making sausages, hams, pates and terrines.
The trainings brought the workers from being apprentices up to journeyman position until they become master of their trade. The members of the guild were those who were not working in the manor or castles. After the abolition of the guild at the end of French Revolution in 1791, the guild members found themselves competing against the much experienced garde mangers who worked in manors or castles. Restaurants and other food establishments preferred the more experienced garde mangers because they could work on wide variety of food while the former guild members could work only on limited types of food.
Garde Manger in Modern Kitchen: In the olden days, Garde Manger denoted the storage area in which preserved foods such as sausages, hams, cheese, pickles, salted meat and dried fish were held. There were huge demands of sugar, salt and other spices not for seasoning but for food preservation. People relied on the cold temperature of the basement where the store room was located. The coldness of the winter season helped in the process. But this did not guarantee great percentage of success rate. Some preserved foods still succumbed to spoilage.
It also made work of the de Boucher –later replaced with garde manger—more difficult because he had to monitor the food every so often, consuming much of his time. This and other problems encountered by the traditional ways of preservation pushed gastronomic entities to revolutionize the process. Garde manger evolved dramatically. Some of the traditional processes are either improved or left out entirely and new techniques are added. But many of the old methods are still in use today, thanks to the effort of the guild to preserve the skills of meat processing and food preservations.
Today, Garde Manger, which is also translated as the preparation and storage of cold food, can refer to various things in the professional kitchen. The storage system has changed due to the emergence of modern technology. Food does not need to be salted, dried or pickled in order to preserve them; refrigerators and freezers keep food from spoiling for as long as the machines are working. In many restaurants and hotels, garde manger is synonymous to the cool and well-ventilated pantry where cold foods are stored and where buffet dishes like salad, pate, soup, aspic, sandwich, sauces, hors d’?
uvres and other appetizers are prepared before serving them in the dining table. The term includes the garde manger chef, the person in charge of the pantry. He still monitors the food in the storage area but his job expands and becomes interesting. It includes planning of menu and the artistic decoration and imaginative presentation of the food. His resourcefulness and creativity can save the establishment money by recycling food: snipping unused parts of vegetables for decorations or puree and picking for usable meat in bones.
The garde manger chef is also involved in fancy table arrangements and creating edible centerpieces carved from fruits or made of from ice, butter or cheese. He also supervises the cutting of meat by the butcher. Amidst the multiplicity of his job, the pantry chef focuses mainly on the preparation of salad, ice cream, desserts, and other cold food items. Although the uses of garde manger may vary from an establishment to another establishment due to different equipment and cooking/preparation skills, almost everything falls onto the garde manger chef when it comes to working in the kitchen.
Today, garde manger is considered one of the most important jobs in large restaurants and hotels. It is vital in keeping the establishment to run smoothly since the job deals with food presentation wherein the visual attractiveness of the food is given more thought. Below is an excerpt from the interview with Sunny Ricks, a Korean-American professional food stylist based in the Boston area. Food styling is one of the many elements of garde manger. She travels around the country making and styling foods for magazines, commercial ads and media campaigns. Question(Q): What is food stylist?
Sunny(S): A food stylist is like a makeup artist; he makes the food look good. It’s hard to believe but a lot of food is not naturally pretty. A mentor once told me: “What we really do is push bacon. ” So that’s what I tell people. Q: How did you get into food styling? S: I was in between graphic design jobs and a friend, who was a photo producer, asked me to assist a food stylist on one of her shoots because she knew I could cook well. We got along well and the stylist asked if I would continue working for her. Q: What have been your favorite projects?
S: I like doing desserts; I enjoyed the Peeps shoot and making cupcakes, cakes and puddings. It’s fun. I like the artistic stuff. We did a campaign for Ibero Star hotels which was interesting. I like the creative things. Q: There is a misconception that Korean food is all about beef that a non-Korean would take Korean soups and stews over grilled meat any day. Agree? S: Yes, I always love soup or stew on cold days. Galbi is not something we cook at home. Q: Some people think that Korean food is pretty basic or too much garnish is thrown onto already busy plates.
There must be a better way. Can you give a few simple food styling tips that people or restaurants can use when serving Korean food? S: They should add dimensions, add height, and add texture like kimchi flakes ( kochukaru). Build it up and add color if it needs it and just a few simple garnishes. Don’t use ugly rimmed plates that they normally use. Q: That’s a better idea. Thank you so much. Final Words: Garde manger is now seen as one of the most important and demanding jobs in food catering business.
Many students are prospecting to specialize in garde manger because they are aware of the job’s magnitude in restaurants and hotels. However, there are some factors that should be considered before jumping into this career. A garde manger always gives emphasis on the artistic presentation of the food he serves, including the table preparation. He must see to it that the food is appealing to the eyes of the patrons that may arouse from them to eat it. However, his duty goes beyond the artistic staging of the dish. He should give close attention to the sanitation, wholesomeness and seasoning of the whole thing.
A person who wishes to be a garde manger chef must learn how to apply seasoning into the food properly. He must neither over-season it nor be too-frugal with the seasoning. Although the visual presentation is given more weight, the palatability of the food still greatly affects the satisfaction of the diner. A lot of chefs are good in seasoning hot food but aren’t in cold food, some are good in cold but can’t season a cold food well. A garde manger must learn how to season both temperatures; he must understand that the quality of the dish must complement its presentation.
In addition to plate presentation, table setting and seasoning, a garde manger must also possess proficiency in the following culinary skills: poaching, simmering, searing, frying, curing, smoking, marinating, piping, slicing, cutting, carving, rolling, crimping and tossing. Finally, a real garde manger chef knows how to integrate the classical and modern cuisine to be able to recognize and understand the primary foundation of the modern kitchen.
Amiotte, Cheri (Jan. 30,2007). Keep to Eat: The History of Garde Manger. Associated Content. Retrieved April 28, 2009 from https://www.thespruce.com/essential-korean-stew-recipes-2118955