Discovering Medieval cooks

Text : Marie Josèphe Moncorgé. Translator: Marie-Joëlle Rose

Here are 11 master cooks of Medieval Europe, who wrote a manuscript or published a cookbook between 1380 and 1585: Taillevent, Maistre Chiquart, Jean de Bockenheim, Meister Eberhards, Maestro Martino, Antonio Camuria, Roberto de Nola, Cristoforo da Messisbugo, Bartolomeo Scappi, Marx Rumpolt, Lancelot de Casteau.

Bartolomeo Scappi, an Italian cook, wrote Opera, published in Venice in 1570. Work includes more than 1000 recipes. Scappi would be born in Bologna, where he organized for Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi, in 1536, a sumptuous banquet in honor of Charles Quint. Scappi was, then, the cook of the pope in Rome. He would also have worked to the service of Cardinal Marin Grimani in Venice.

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Guillaume Tirel, a French cook named Taillevent, the most famous Medieval cook in France, would be born around 1320 or 1326 and died around 1395. There are 4 versions of his text, the Viandier de Taillevent:

These different versions of the Viandier are rewritten and enlarged versions of the Manuscrit de Sion, written around 1300 or before.

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Maistre Chiquart: the Rhône-Alpes region (France) is lucky to have one of the rare cooks of Medieval Europe known by his cookery book. In 1420, Maistre Chiquart dictated Du fait de cuysine to Clerk Jehan de Dudens in Annecy. Duke Amédée VIII asked Maistre Chiquart to write down his art of cooking to the glory of the Court of Savoie. This text is remarkable for its literary qualities. Maistre Chiquart was highly meticulous and insited that the kitchen ustensils be very clean.

More, in French: Maître Chiquart

Jean de Bockenheim, a German cook of the pope Martin V, wrote around 1430 Registrum coquine (Cookery register). He was not only a cook, but also a clerk: after having left the pope's service in Rome, Jean Herbordi de Bockenheim had been a religious in the dioceses of Worms and Mainz.

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Meister Eberhard wrote Das Kochbuch Meister Eberhards (The cookbook of Master Eberhard), probably in the first half of the 15th century. We deal with a well-educated German cook, expert in dietetics.

More, in French: Meister Eberhards

Maestro Martino is the most well known Medieval cook in Italy. This Italian cook is a good example of how ideas circulated in Medieval Europe: The Catalan manuscript Sent Sovi exercised an influence on Maestro Martino and several recipes of the Catalan cook Roberto de Nola have been based upon the cookbook of Maestro Martino. Later on, many Martino's recipes were quoted by Platine. Martino's book, Libro de arte coquinaria (Culinary art book), was written in Rome around 1450, with 267 recipes arranged into 6 chapters.

More, in French: Maestro Martino

The cook Roberto de Nola is a symbol of the intercultural exchanges during the end of the Middle Ages: living in the south of Italy, under Aragon domination, he was obviously influenced by the Catalan cookery of the Sent Sovi and by the Italian recipes of Maestro Martino. The Libre del coch (the Book of the cook) was written in Catalan around 1477 by Mestre Roberto, chef at the court of Naples. Was he a Catalan or an Italian speaking Catalan?

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Antonio Camuria wrote a manuscript dated back to 1524, with 85 recipes. He used two ingredients specific to the cookery in the Renaissance: sugar and rosewater.

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Cristoforo da Messisbugo, Italian cook, wrote Banchetti, composizioni di vivande e apparecchio generale... (Banquets, compositions of dishes and general device), published in Ferrare in 1549, one year after his death. Messisbugo was an equerry at the court of Ferrare, a military rank of high responsibility, reserved to a noble man.

More, in French: Cristoforo da Messisbugo

Marx Rumpolt, a German cook of Hungarian origin, a cook at the Court of Saxony wrote Ein new Kochbuch. This New cookbook includes more than 2000 recipes and was published in Frankfort in 1581.

More, in French: Marx Rumpolt

Lancelot de Casteau, a Belgian cook, Maistre Cuisinier de trois Princes de Liège, wrote in French, in 1585, Ouverture de cuisine, which was published in 1604.

More, in French: Lancelot de Casteau

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Découverte des cuisiniers médiévaux