Origin of the Russian service
Prince Alexander Borisovitch Kourakine, Russian ambassador to Paris in 1830, introduced the so-called “the service Russian style ”, changing the way meals had been served for hundreds of years. During the reign of Louis XIV and until the XNUMXth century, formal meals were served "French-style."
The "French" meals survived until those days as "buffet", and were originally Banquet Offered to numerous guests by an often very wealthy guest, as a way to expose culinary opulence and limitless abundance.
Agape served in the French style is traditionally divided into three parts (soup and pesacdo service, roasts and sweets), each comprising various dishes, all arranged at the table and surrounded by culinary decorations and hors d'oeuvres. The roast presented during the second course was the real star of the meal, and it managed to bring together the most spectacular forms of culinary art often.
In a meal " French”Diners were supposed to form a circle around the table and serve themselves, choosing what they most wanted. Servants intervened little, limiting themselves to setting the table before guests appeared and clearing plates to make more space available for a new wave of delicacies.
The “Russian-style” service, introduced by Prince Kourakine and later popularized by Urbain Dubois, meant that diners remained seated around the table and dishes were served in order, one after another. Although the main reason for the change was to allow dishes to be served hot (in the "French-style" system most dishes finished cold or warm), "Russian service" introduced phenomenal changes to table etiquette: the guests assumed a more passive role and the service became the central pivot of the table ritual.
Seated diners were served by a “Maìtre d´Hôtel", Which led a team of waiters, usually one for each diner. It is then when dishes and utensils are assigned a particular arrangement on the table: the underplate, the napkin placed on the plate as decoration) and the cutlery with the knife (the blade facing the inside) and the spoon to the right of the plate and the fork on the left. Dishes were served from the left and removed from the right side, the side from which the wine.
The servants had to master the three main techniques of serving dishes, which are still taught in hospitality schools today: the “al´assiette” service (removing the empty plate and then replacing it), the “a la pince” service ( serving directly on the diner's plate from a tray with the help of tongs) and the "au gueridon" service (in which the dish is first offered to the guest to admire, and then placed on an adjoining pedestal table - guéridon - to prepare and serve it.
The "au guéridon" service paved the way for a more dynamic role of the chef and the staff in charge of the service. Not only were roasts brought to the side table to be masterfully carved, but also fish and vegetables, so that their freshness and magnificence could be contemplated. A later evolution of the guéridon, the trolley on wheels and with the dishes available to the diners, reintroduced the possibility of choosing one dish among many, so typical of the "French" service.
The cheese cart generally featured seven different types of cheese, the candy cart offered a wide choice of cakes and other sweets and occasionally fruits, and the barbecue cart became a familiar fixture in the culinary landscape, especially in Northern Italy, where the famous "carrello dei botilli" displayed behind a stewed glass bell, which generally contained beef tenderloin, calf and chicken shank, pork sausage called "Zampone" and other meat stews, all accompanied by sauces and vegetables.
When the cook became a chef and the refinement in the kitchen was highly appreciated socially, even the chef could leave the kitchen and occasionally put their skills into practice before an admired audience of diners: the flambé cart, a small table on casters equipped with stoves allowed the chefs to show off.
Crepes, omelettes and other dishes to which brandy, rum or whiskey were poured and then lit were prepared flambéed to enhance the taste and add a note of color to the evening. Another figure came to light, thanks to the versatility of the serving trolleys: the cellar master or "Maître de Chai" and the "Sommelier", prepared to propose, prepare and taste great wines and spirits in front of their customers with help of its wine carts, equipped with space for decanting, and space to store and display the precious bottles.
The XNUMXth century was the triumphant century of the middle class in which the bourgeoisie firmly conquered the levels
of power and imprinted on the culture new values and standards of conduct. That changed the label on the table and its place of development: the castle was replaced through a flat or a house and the service shrank to the point that the host became more involved in the preparation and service of meals in a much more direct way.
The era of parties and evenings was popping up, and so were new ways of organizing houses and new codes of conduct. The small houses had to find a space for the kitchen, both for solemn and more informal occasions: this is how the concept of kitchen-living room, in an open space where our guests stroll naturally.
Before meals were served at parties and celebrations in the buffet style, reminiscent of “French” food, while the rest of the meals adopted the Russian style, although certainly with less formalities and with a more dynamic interaction between diners.
Later, the label changed to much freer and less forced forms, and what was considered more appropriate was the naturalness and spontaneity of one at the table, bringing to the fore the simplicity and the rejection of all forms of ostentation.
El furniture It was also adapted, becoming more and more eclectic, in a fusion of versatility, flexibility and functionality: designer stools made their appearance in the kitchens and the old “guéridon” and serving trolleys were seen as mobile furniture, equipped with all the necessary gadgets and accessories and with a studied design. Today, our "master of ceremonies" does not follow a fashion or need any style, but deep down he always continues to represent the newest statement of style and table etiquette.