What is a Kitchen Brigade?

Some of you have been asking about the significance of the kitchen brigade, and why I chose that as a title for my latest book. The kitchen brigade (brigade de cuisine) is a system of hierarchy in the kitchen, particularly in restaurants and hotels, developed in the late 1800s by Georges Auguste Escoffier (yes, that Escoffier) to delegate the many, many tasks required to produce a magnificent haute cuisine meal, The list, as originally crafted, is incredibly extensive, and includes four positions just under the pastry cook alone! The larger the restaurant, obviously, the more positions are required. It was called a brigade based on Escoffier’s career in the French army.

Most modern restaurants don’t use the full order of the brigade. Partly because of the cost involved and because most restaurant meals don’t include the seven or eight courses that were common in the high-end restaurants of the late 1800s, when a fancy meal could last an entire evening.

Since, in the story, Chef Svetlana has crafted a kitchen to please the refined sensibilities (if not refined palate) of the Russian general she works for, she structures her kitchen using a stripped down version of the classic brigade system. She’s the head chef; under her command are sous chefs, a pastry cook, and two line chefs. In real life, she might have preferred a fuller brigade. But there’s a war on, so she does the best she can with what she can find. So, a kitchen brigade during wartime… The Kitchen Brigade seemed like a natural fit as a title.

Also, in case you didn’t get to see this, or want to learn more about The Kitchen Brigade (the novel), here’s an interview I did with Cyrus Webb about the story. I hope you enjoy it. He asks great questions.

As always, thank you for reading!