Little biographical information is known about François Pierre, who took the name La Varenne, and whose most famous work, Le Cuisinier François represented a new approach to French cooking when it was first published in 1651. In addition to providing new recipes (the preceding century was dominated by reprints of older, popular recipes), La Varenne's work is significant for introducing the new method of French cooking found in the first half of the seventeenth century. Previously, French cooking was mainly influenced by Italian works, such as those outlined in the preceding case. The seventeenth century, however, saw a significant shift in style, mainly through the influence of La Varenne, who advocated a lighter hand with seasonings and the use of local herbs, as opposed to reliance on exotic, exported spices. He also began using what was then considered new vegetables, such as cauliflower and artichokes. La Varenne worked for a number of aristocratic employers, continuing the trend of cookbook authors coming from court kitchens.
Le Cuisinier François was popular, and went into multiple editions. The copy displayed here was published in 1652. Extant first editions of early modern cookbooks can be difficult to come by, mainly due to the genre of the book: because a cookbook was foremost a practical text, used in the kitchen, the popular works became so heavily used they literally fell apart.
As a further sign of its popularity, Le Cuisinier François was translated into English in 1653 as The French Cook, the first translation of a French cookbook in to English, again underscoring La Varenne's influence. The edition displayed here is a first edition of the translation, and includes a small dictionary translating key French words.
Another influential book of this time, often attributed to La Varenne, is Le Patissier François, published in 1653. This book was the first to be devoted just to pastry. While much of it focuses on sweet pastries, savory approaches, such as pastry used for wrapping meat or fish, are also included. This work, too, was translated into English, as well as Swedish and German.