The History of Garde Mange Aaron avers The garde manger profession began with people’s need to preserve food. The practice of food preservation is very much older than the term Garde Manager. In medieval times, castles and large homes were equipped with underground larders or cold food storage rooms. The food storage areas in these castles and manor houses were usually located in the lower levels since the cool basement-like environment was ideal for storing food. These cold storage areas developed over time into the modern cold kitchen. In France, the larder was called the Garde Manager.
So one meaning of the culinary term garde manger can be a person in charge of cold foods preparation and preservation. Today, in the industry, I have been taught that the garde manger is now referred to as the pantry chef. Garde manger is also known as the place in which cold foods are prepared and stored, and the person or chef of cold foods preparation. Garerde Manger was being used long before it was a commonly used term. Perishable foods like meat and fish were dried in the sun or packed with salt to preserve them. The first dependable method of preserving foods was actually drying. Also you can read about History of the Culinary Arts.
Smoking foods was derived from placing the meat on poles over a smoky fire to prevent insects and other animals from feeding while it was curing. Farming families began using spices along with the salt, and discovered that tough meats can be tenderized. In the Middle Ages and in the early renaissance, foods that were prepared for the upper classes were overly complicated and heavily spiced. La Varenne, a French chef with Italian influences, went against medieval tradition, and stressed the importance of natural flavors and lighter sauce.
Salads and vinaigrettes took the place of heavier cooked foods and became the standard side to roasted meats. It was at this point that the role of garde manger expanded from food preservation to the actual preparation of all cold foods consumption, moving them out of the basement and into the kitchen. By the end of the twentieth century the prepackaging of our industry has allowed some great advances in garde manger. Garde manger, keeper of the food”, or pantry supervisor, refers to the task of preparing and presenting cold foods.
These typically include such food items as salads, hors d’? uvres, cold soups, aspics, and charcuterie. Larger restaurants and hotels may have the need for the garde manger to perform additional duties, such as creating elements for buffet presentation like edible centerpieces made from materials such as ice, cheese, butter, salt dough or tallow. In most modern kitchens the garde manger is synonymous with pantry chef, having duties focusing on salads, soups, cold food items, and dessert platings. It is usually the entry level line cook position within a restaurant.
The term “garde manger” originated in pre-Revolutionary France. At that time, maintaining a full supply of food was a symbol of power, wealth and prestige. Noble families had a household steward who would manage their cold store room. The steward was referred to as the “officer de bouche”, a title that was eventually replaced with “garde manger”. This position was extremely important, because most of the food was butchered, pickled, salted, cured, or smoked during the fall season and stored for months, all the way into the spring months.
It is because of this duty of supervising the preserving of food and managing its use that many interpret the term “garde manger” as “keeping to eat”. The position of “butcher” first developed as a specialty within the garde manger kitchen. As both the cost of and demand for animals for food increased, more space was required for the fabricating and portioning the raw proteins. This need for space was due not only to an upswing in the number of protein sales, but also to the need for separating raw proteins from processed foods to avoid cross-contamination and the resulting possibility of food borne illness.
Special “butcher shops” were created where portion sizes, product deployment, and temperature could be highly controlled. Today butcher shops exist both as standalone establishments and alongside kitchens in large hotels, country clubs and high volume restaurants. Modern garde manger can refer to different things in the professional kitchen. In many restaurants it is a station which is generally an entry level cooking position within the restaurant, as it involves preparing salads or other smaller plates which can be cooked and plated without significant experience.
In other high-profile classically influenced restaurants and hotels, the position pertains to the classical preparations. Today Garde Manger is referred to as “The Art of the Cold Kitchen”. Some may even say it is the arts and crafts of the culinary industry. Today’s Garde Mangers must behold more than simple food preservation skills. They must have the knowledge and skills to create everything as small as a batch of mayonnaise to something as large and elaborate as ice carving. Some food establishments use the word pantry instead of Garde Manager.
Some may even refer to it as the salad station… the list goes on and on. In the restaurant scene the Garde Manger’s job is typically plating salads and preparing cold appetizers. In some situations it may even be their job to plate desserts. Some find the experience of working in the Garde Manger extremely challenging and stimulating that they often decide to make it their life long career. The skills needed for the Garde Manger are so extreme that it is often the walkway that leads some to the path of being a great chef, possibly even a famous chef.