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Prosper Montagné (pronounced [pʁɔspɛʁ mɔ̃taɲe]; 14 November 1865 – 22 April 1948) was one of the most renowned French chefs of the Belle Époque and author of many books and articles on food, cooking, and gastronomy, notably Larousse Gastronomique (1938), an encyclopedic dictionary of the French culinary arts. While Montagné was once as famous as his friend Auguste Escoffier, and was one of the most influential French chefs of the early twentieth century, his fame seems to have faded somewhat over the years. In the 1920s, Montagné, Escoffier, and Philéas Gilbert -- their close friend and collaborator, and an acclaimed chef and writer in his own right -- were the French chefs and culinary writers esteemed above others by many French journalists and writers. After Montagné's death, the chef and author Alfred Guérot's description of the troika as the "celebrated contemporary culinary trinity: Auguste Escoffier, the father; Philéas Gilbert, the son; Prosper Montagné, the spirit" reflects the reverence in which all three were held by the French culinary community.
Early life and career in restaurant kitchens
Montagné was born Paul Marius Octave Prosper in Carcassonne (Aude), which is located in the south of France about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Toulouse, where his father managed a large department store. Upon leaving lycée (high school) in Carcassonne, he hoped to pursue a career in the arts, perhaps architecture. However, his parents had other ideas. They acquired an old hotel, L'Hôtel des Quatre-Saisons, in Toulouse, and young Prosper went to work in the kitchen, although he remained more interested in painting than cuisine. Hoping to steer his son in a different direction, Montagné's father placed him in an apprenticeship at the Hôtel d'Angleterre in Cauterets (Hautes-Pyrénées), in southwestern France, under one of the finest chefs of the period, Alphonse Meillon.
By the time he completed his apprenticeship, Montagné had indeed found the vocation he loved in the kitchen. He went to Paris to work in the kitchens at Ambassadeurs Restaurant, then the Grand Hôtel. He then worked at the Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo, where he met his friend and collaborator Prosper Salles, until he had to report for his obligatory military service. In 1900, he returned to Paris and managed the kitchens at Pavillon d'Armenonville, Restaurant Ledoyen, and, finally, the Grand Hôtel once more. Montagné left that position in 1907 to pursue his interests in culinary and gastronomic literature and journalism. After the First World War, he established his own restaurant in 1920, Montagné Traiteur, rue de l'Echelle, Paris, which was frequented by "le Tout-Paris", or the most celebrated artists, writers, gastronomes, and politicians of the day. It closed in 1930. He served as culinary consultant to La Rôtisserie de la Reine Pédauque, rue de la Pépinière, Paris, from 1939 to 1945.
Montagné was a prolific culinary writer. His books include:
- La Grande cuisine illustrée, with Prosper Salles (1900)
- Le Livre de cuisine militaire en garnison with Philéas Gilbert (informally called the Manuel Chéron) (1908)
- Le Livre de cuisine militaire aux manoeuvres et en campaign (1909)
- La Cuisine diététique, with Dr. Félix Regnault (1910)
- Manuel du bon cuistot et de la bonne ménagère (1918)
- Bonne chère, pas chère, ou les repas sans viande (1918)
- Le Grand livre de cuisine, with Prosper Salles (1929)
- Le Festin occitan (Collection des Ecrivains de l'Aude) (1930)
- Les Délices de la table, ou les Quatre saisons gourmandes (1931)
- Mon menu. Cuisine d'hygiène alimentaire, with Dr. Alfred Gottschalk (1936)
- Larousse Gastronomique, with Dr. Alfred Gottschalk (1938)
- La Cuisine avec et sans tickets (1941)
Montagné also contributed to many newspapers and magazines, including: Le Petit Parisien; L'Art Culinaire; Bulletin des Armées de la Republic (1916-1917); L'Eventail (Brussels); L'Oeuvre; Touche-à-Tout; Excelsior; La Vie Parisienne; Fémina; Gil-Blas; La Revue de la Femme; Nos Loisirs. He was also the editor-in-chief of La Revue Culinaire, a monthly publication started by the Société des cuisiniers de Paris, which began publication in 1920.
After Carême, the two men who probably had the greatest impact on French gastronomy and that of the world at large were Prosper Montagné and Georges-Auguste Escoffier. Montagné was one of the great French chefs of all time, and he achieved a secure place in gastronomic history by creating Larousse Gastronomique (1938), the basic encyclopaedia of French gastronomy. As a young man..., he came to the conclusion that all pièces montées, as well as superfluous garnitures and decorations, should be discarded.
He lends his name to the Club Prosper Montagné, a trade association of French food professionals.
- Saillard, Denis (2015). "Chefs Contre Gastronomes. Histoire d'une Défaite Médiatique (1880-1940)". Revue le Temps des Medias. 1 (24): 44–65 – via Cairn.info.
- Guérot, Alfred (June 1948). "La Revue Culinaire à son Rédacteur en Chef Prosper Montagné". La Revue Culinaire. 30 (245): 147–150 – via Gallica.
- Lamoise, Roger (1995). La vie et l'oeuvre de Prosper Montagné, Maître cuisinier et écrivain gastronomique 1865-1948 (in French) (1st ed.). Paris: Editions Jacques Lanore. p. 43. ISBN 2 86268 245 4.
- http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-22648[dead link]
- "Recherche - Base de données Léonore". www.leonore.archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr. Retrieved 2 August 2022.
- "Confrérie gastronomique française pour le goût et de la qualité". Club Gastronomique Prosper Montagné.