It is almost impossible to discuss late Nineteenth Century food without talking about George Auguste Escoffier. But why? Unless specifically looking for a recipe for Peaches Melba, it is almost impossible to find specific recipes tied to his name.
The reason lies in organization.
Escoffier began his career at 13, as an apprentice in his Uncle's restaurant in Nice, France. At the time, French cuisine was dominated by the ideas of Marie-Antoine Careme (June 8th, 1784-January 12th, 1833) who had served as head chef for the future George IV of England, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, and Baron James de Rothschild.
Careme was the original chef to write down french cuisine. He meticulously organized it, for example writing down sauces by "Mother" Sauce: Bechamel, Veloute, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Mayonaise, and vinaigrette. To this day, if you know how to make each of those sauces, you can make any other sauce based in European cuisine...they are all variations on those five! He also was famous for breathtaking edible centerpieces (an important part of great dinners of the day), and for being the first to heavily illustrate his cookbooks, giving chefs an end result to aim for, rather then just directions.
|A menu in Escoffier's hand, from the blog Les Recettes de Lous la Vache|
|The Hotel Ritz, opened by Ritz and Escoffier in 1898|
For a more detailed biography, look here.
A translated compilation of Escoffier's writing is available from Amazon here.