The Chef in History

The role of the chef has changed profoundly, too, from the anonymous cooks of ancient times to the celebrity chefs of today. The duties and status of other people involved in food preparation have also changed. Originally, butchers killed animals. With industrialization, butchers now cut the already killed animals into pieces. In some cultures, like ancient India, butchers were considered “unclean” and were of very low status. But in Jewish communities in Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century, butchers were valued because they had food. Parents were happy to have their daughter marry a butcher, because she would never starve.
Printed cookbooks have existed for only about 500 years, but chefs wrote them for other chefs and didn’t use specific amounts and instructions until about 250 years ago. Cooking schools began a little more than 100 years ago, in France. Although throughout history, most cooking in the home was done by women, women chefs are recent arrivals, from the middle of the twentieth century.

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