Cooking with copper

Guest post: Chefs and copper

VFC

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Readers Nick and Martin have gathered some delightful videos of grand French kitchens using copper.

VFC says: A discussion in the comments between Nick and Martin turned in an interesting direction: Just how many professional kitchens use copper today? Nick took it upon himself to look for examples and I felt his results deserve a wider audience. These videos, in French, present tours of some of the most famous kitchens in France, and sharp-eyed readers will spot copper in use. Take it away, Nick!


The request to see top chefs cooking with copper pans led me to play a little game. I took the list of the Michelin 3 star restaurants and Googled them one after the other, searching for videos of their kitchen. Of course, I didn’t get to all of them (yet ;-)). So far: No copper at all in the German kitchens, some in the US and Spanish ones but, maybe no surprise there, I was able to spot copper in action on the stove in almost all the French restaurants. None of those French chefs, ancient or contemporary, seems to have received the memo on the prohibition of metal utensils in tin lined copper cookware!

Of course, most of what I found is in French, but the colour of copper doesn’t change!

Chef Christian Le Squer at “Le Cinq” at the George V Hotel in Paris (2016)

It looks like this pragmatic kitchen is using copper for tasks at which it excels: managing cooktop heat for valuable delicate ingredients that shouldn’t be scorched.

From the video description on YouTube:

Imaginer, tester, cuisiner, dresser, déguster. C’est la routine créative du chef triplement étoilé Christian Le Squer. Depuis 2014, il est à la tête des cuisines du restaurant “Le Cinq” du palace George V à Paris. Chaque mercredi, le chef propose sur Le Monde.fr des recettes autour d’un produit. Il nous invite cette fois en coulisses pour découvrir les dessous de cette cuisine de palace.

Imagine, test, cook, dress, taste. This is the creative routine of three-star chef Christian Le Squer. Since 2014, he has been in charge of the kitchens of the restaurant “Le Cinq” at the George V palace in Paris. Every Wednesday, the chef offers recipes based on a product on Le Monde.fr. This time he invites us backstage to discover the secrets of this palace kitchen.

Here is when the video shows copper in use.

  • 5:30: A quick glance at three copper sauté pans in use.
  • 7:45: A longer look at the same three pans. At least one has copper rivets and is certainly tinned. I’m not sure about the other two — the rivets are a dark color that could be tarnished copper or steel. I also spot two saucepans, possibly evasées, on the shelf behind the cooking area, also with copper rivets.
  • 13:25: Some additional copper pans close by: some sauté pans on a higher shelf along with a stewpot. Another sauté pan being put away.


Hotel Le Bristol, Paris (2021)

From the video description on YouTube:

Acteurs, mannequins, joueurs de foot, les stars du monde entier séjournent dans cet incroyable palace au coeur de Paris. A deux pas des Champs Elysées, il fait partie du cercle très fermé des palaces. Découvrez les coulisses de cet hôtel 5 étoiles où se croisent les clients les plus fortunés de la planète.

Actors, models, soccer players, stars from all over the world stay in this incredible palace in the heart of Paris. A stone’s throw from the Champs Elysées, it is part of a very small circle of palaces. Take a behind-the-scenes look at this 5-star hotel where the world’s wealthiest clients meet.

  • 24:33: Glimpse of copper pots in the distance on a high shelf behind the chef.
  • 24:47: Glimpse of fifteen or so copper pans: sautes, saucepans, and gratins. I see silvery rivets that suggest steel (or nickel) linings. I think the silver-riveted pieces are Falk with their distinctive brushed finish.
  • 25:40 begins a sequence about a particular dish of chicken served within a pork bladder. Note that the entire time the precious item is set within a copper gratin until the moment it is set upon its serving dish.


Laurent Petit at Le Clos des Sens, Annecy-le-Vieux (2017)

This is not a kitchen tour so much as an episode spent with the chef. But at 6:19, there is a shot of a couple of copper saute pans close at hand as a sous-chef does some work.

From the video description on YouTube:

Avec calme et détermination, Laurent Petit a gravi une a une les récompenses étoilées. Ce chef natif de la Marne a eu un véritable coup de coeur pour Annecy et ses environs… un projet de reprise de l’ancien école puis un restaurant 2 étoiles au Guide Michelin. En 2016, le chef a eu, une véritable révélation : Plus de viandes, et très peu de poissons dans l’assiette.. place au végétal : Laurent Petit a fait donc son « cooking out » il l’explique dans Panier de Chef.

With calm and determination, Laurent Petit has climbed the ladder of Michelin stars. This chef, a native of the Marne, fell in love with Annecy and its surroundings… a project to take over the old school and then a 2-star restaurant in the Michelin Guide. In 2016, the chef had a real revelation: No more meats, and very few fish on the plate … place for vegetables: Laurent Petit therefore did his “cooking out,” he explains to Panier de chef.

This is not a kitchen tour so much as an episode spent with the chef. But at 6:19, there is a shot of a couple of copper saute pans close at hand as a sous-chef does some work.


Palais de l’Elysée, Paris (2017)

In the residence of the French president, copper is apparently used every day.

From the video description on YouTube:

Aujourd’hui à la retraite, Bernard Vaussion est entré comme commis à l’Elysée en 1974, sous Georges Pompidou. Il a passé 40 ans dans les cuisines du palais et a servi six présidents différents, mais ce n’est qu’en 2005 qu’il est promu chef des cuisines. Il raconte le stress et la pression lors de la préparation d’un déjeuner d’Etat officiel, sans oublier quelques anecdotes croustillantes sur les manies de certains présidents. A la tête des cuisines de l’Elysée, Bernard Vaussion est aussi membre d’un club très prestigieux, celui des «chefs des chefs d’Etat». Leur devise : la politique divise les hommes, la cuisine les réunit.

Now retired, Bernard Vaussion joined the Elysée as a clerk in 1974, under Georges Pompidou. He spent 40 years in the palace kitchens and served six different presidents, but it wasn’t until 2005 that he was promoted to chef. He chronicles the stress and pressure of preparing for an official state luncheon, not to mention some crisp anecdotes about the quirks of some presidents. At the head of the Elysée kitchens, Bernard Vaussion is also a member of a very prestigious club, that of “chefs for heads of state.” Their motto: politics divides men, cooking unites them.

This is a copper-rich environment. There are several glimpses of copper during the first five minutes and then at 7:05 the narration directly addresses the importance of historical copper in this kitchen. There are three hundred copper pots and pans, “true museum pieces,” that the kitchen employs as a matter of respect for French heritage.


Recette Vintage

I don’t know how I ended up on a Youtube channel called recette vintage (vintage recipe) which offers a selection of old cooking shows from French television. Some of them feature old gods of last century’s French gastronomy: Troisgros, Robuchon, Guérard, and even Bocuse and you can see them whisking butter in copper windsors or poaching fish in a beautiful hammered aluminium turbotiere (that’s Pierre Troisgros in the Panaché de poissons à la jeannot).

Here are a few that show copper pans in use. They’re not from the present day but they’re still fun to watch.

Les œufs au vin rouge de Pierre Perret (1987)

Copper is front and center here!

 

La dinde de Noël par Paul Bocuse (1985)

Around 2:10 is a glamor shot of quite a bit of copper in the kitchen.

 

Arrière de lapin de cabane aux herbes d’Alain Chapel (1977)

A tinned copper sauté pan shows up around 2:05 and is used to brown the rabbit. Then suddenly at 12:40 appears a pair of tinned Windsors. “Your pans are so thick,” remarks the comely sous-chef.

 

Cuisine d’oc et canard de Noël (1984)

Starting around 4:20, a bonanza of copper: saucepans, sauté pans, and a large stewpot, a combination of tinned and steel-lined. Shockingly, one saucepan appears completely unlined.

 

Le repas de fête de Michel Troisgros (1997)

This working kitchen has copper pans happily coexisting with steel.

 

Le gigot de mer braisé aux nouilles fraîches de Pierre Troisgros (1977)

A lovely hammered oval gratin — loop handles long gone — appears around 8:15. It goes from stovetop to oven and back to stovetop. I admit I winced at the use of a metal fish spatula, but it’s his pan!

 


I don’t know what I enjoyed more: the search, or watching the videos of great chefs in action. In any case, I hope that VFC and the readers of this site may find these videos as interesting or at least as entertaining as I did.

VFC says: Nick, I love this post! Thanks to you and Martin for bringing these to the site! Readers, are there more copper-centric videos you’d like to add?


An addition from Martin:

A French dinner for the Queen in the kitchens of the Elysee Palace (2019)

From the description: On the occasion of D-Day commemoration ceremonies, the Queen of England is paying an official state visit in France and will be attending a banquet as the guest of honor at the official residence of the President of the Republic of France, the Elysée Palace. This documentary film will describe the event from the kitchens of power, the true vitrine of French gastronomy which has been on Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010. We will follow the work of the teams of the famous chef Guillaume Gomez, from the conception of the menus to the selection of products with the best French producers as well as the installation of the reception hall. A true challenge for a prestigious guest.

Says Martin, “From 10′ and even better from 11′ you can have another look at the 450 copper pans of this famous kitchen.”


An addition from Roger:

Bill Granger visits the Royal kitchens at Buckingham Palace (2011)

From the description: The Australian TV chef teaches Royal Household chefs how to make pavlova and lamingtons ahead of a reception to mark The Queen’s forthcoming visit to Australia.

Says Roger, “At 2:40 there is a whole rack of mainly English copper much of which dates to Queen Victoria’s time and still in use.”


An addition from Dominique:

Jacques Maximin, Bistrot de la Marine, Cros de Cagnes (2011)

Starting around 25 seconds in, and repeatedly during the shots in the kitchen, you’ll see several copper saucepans and sauté pans in use.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Love this! Very creative and enjoyable 🙂 in watching the “best chefs in France” series from the 90s, it’s funny how Teflon became popular and some copper was put aside for the newer technology. Ironically, if I’m not mistaken the Troisgros restaurant even had some Teflon lined copper pans… yikes!

  2. Bravo Nick, you have spent a few hours researching this one and it is fascinating. Might I suggest an addition, on YouTube “Bill Granger visits the Royal kitchens at Buckingham Palace” at 2:40 there is a whole rack of mainly English copper much of which dates to Queen Victoria’s time and still in use.

  3. A wonderful compilation! Once you start browsing YouTube, you can find many more similar reports. I especially liked some passages from “A French dinner for the Queen – in the kitchens of the Elysee Palace”. From 10′ and even better from 11′ you can have another look at the 450 copper pans of this famous kitchen.

  4. The British counterpart allows views into the kitchen of WINDSOR CASTLE and a banquet – no less imposing.

  5. Hello Dominique and welcome to VFC’s wonderful site. Your video is an entertaining addition to this post. I did notice once again the scandalous use of metal implements in the tinned pans (-: . Have you dined at the restaurant in this video?

  6. Hello stephen M Whalen , i have seen couples of videos i gues they all do that with the metal in tinned line copper.
    no i have never eaten in this restaurant,this restaurant it is in the south of France and i am in the north of France next to Belgium
    it s a very nice site with a lot of information thank you to the creator(s) of this website

  7. After watching many videos about cooking in star-decorated kitchens around the globe these days and only with difficulty swallowing some of the cooks’ shortcomings in terms of craftsmanship (stirring and poking around in tin-plated copper pots with metal tools, fine decorating for minutes with bare hands instead of tweezers, generally working frequently without disposable gloves), today I felt like solid bourgeois cooking entirely without chi-chi. Once all the ingredients were cleaned and found their place in the pans, they came into contact only with wood or silicone and, of course, tin: cevapcici with Brussels sprouts gently steamed in vegetable broth, green beans with shallots, mashed sweet potatoes and, of course, various spices and sauces. I prefer the “down to earth” (European) cuisine. In my experience, you can find excellent cuisine everywhere in EU in numerous inconspicuous small restaurants.

    VFC mentioned in the post that she had not found any star chefs in Germany cooking with copper pans. There are historical reasons for this. After the disasters in the first half of the 20th century, our devastated country was given a chance for a fresh start – thanks in part to the US’s European Recovery Program (however, the US had previously confiscated German industrial patents). With the “economic miracle” starting around 1960, electricity (instead of wood and coal), built-in kitchens and stainless steel made their way into our kitchens. The latter even more so in professional kitchens. Economy, hygiene and especially ease of maintenance were the guidelines. Despite this abandonment of copper, there are now abaout 12 chefs decorated with 3 Michelin stars in Germany after all. To my knowledge, however, some top chefs also use copper pans in their private kitchens. Just as they are allowed to use wooden cutting boards there, which is not permitted in professional kitchens in our country. All items used in a professional kitchen must be dishwasher safe.

    Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

  8. Nick and Martin this post is so fun!! Thank you for providing information about videos in English as well! How inspiring, and what a great reminder of the professional quality, culture and history wrapped up in our old pots and pans!! I always feel inspired when seeing copper cookware hard at work in kitchens!!

    Also – I’m not sure if either of you are Anthony Bourdain fans, but in No Reservations Season 1 Episode 1 Paris there are snapshots of copper being used in Chez Denise and Chez Robert et Louise! 🙂

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