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Le Bailliage du Greater Washington, DC Chapter

Chaîne History

The Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is an international gastronomic society founded in Paris in 1950. It is devoted to promoting fine dining and preserving the camaraderie and pleasures of the table.

The Chaîne is originally based on the traditions and practices of the old French royal guild of goose roasters – the goose, a type of poultry, was particularly appreciated during the Middle Ages. Its authority was gradually expanded to include the roasting of all poultry, meat and game. The written history of the guild of "Les Oyers" or “Goose Roasters” has been traced back to the year 1248. At that time King Louis IX, later to be Saint Louis, assigned Etienne Boileau, the Provost of Paris, with the task of bringing order into the organisation of trades and guilds, developing young apprentices and improving the technical knowledge of guild members. He gathered together the charters of more than 100 of these trades, among them the Goose Roasters.

Over the years, the activities and privileges of the Goose Roasters Guild were extended to preparing and selling all kinds of meat, including poultry and venison.

Evolution of the Chaîne

In 1509, during the reign of King Louis XII, some new statutes were introduced, which resulted in the change of the name of the guild to "Rôtisseurs" and its activities were restricted to poultry, game birds, lamb and venison. In 1610, under King Louis XIII, the guild was granted a royal charter and its own coat of arms. The original coat of arms consists of two crossed turning spits and four larding needles, surrounded by flames of the hearth on a shield.

For over four centuries the "Confrérie" or brotherhood of the Roasters cultivated and developed culinary art and high standards of professionalism and quality – standards befitting the splendour of the "Royal Table" - until the guild system was disbanded, together with all others, in 1793 during the French Revolution. The Rôtisseurs were almost forgotten until 1950 when Dr. Auguste Becart, Jean Valby and "Prince" Curnonsky (elected Prince of Gastronomes*), and chefs Louis Giraudon and Marcel Dorin resurrected the Society and created La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.

*Curnonsky was the pen name of Maurice Edmond Sailland, a French writer, novelist, biographer and gastronome. He was know as the "Prince of Gastronomes", a title he was awarded in a public referendum in 1927, and a title no one else has been given since. At the height of his prestige, eighty restaurants around Paris would hold a table every night in case he arrived. Supposedly in his later years he was so heavy he was unable to walk and had to be carried by six friends to his favorite restaurants. On July 22, 1956, at the age of 84, Curnonsky leaned too far out of his window and fell to his death.

Chaîne Coat of Arms since 1950

For the new Confrérie, a logo was created which used the former historic shield in the centre. It was encircled with fleur-de-lis and two chains, between which the new name of the Society and the foundation dates of 1248 and 1950 were written.

The inner chain represents the professional members; the outer chain the non-professional members and the bond, which unites all of the members.

Chaîne Today

Since its rebirth the society has grown dramatically, spreading its influence and presence worldwide. Today, the Chaîne brings together professional (such as chefs, restaurant and hotel owners and managers) and non-professional members from around the world who share in the "spirit" of the Society and who appreciate and enjoy wine and fine dining. This association of people dedicated to fine cuisine, now devotes itself to promoting and developing the gastronomic values whilst at the same time widening its focus to ‘table art’. While a confrérie is a "brotherhood," women have always been welcome and they take an active role in the Society. By reviving the traditions most deeply rooted in French culture, the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is restoring a heritage that was never really lost. Within the Chaîne there is also the "L'Ordre Mondial des Gourmets Dégustateurs" for those members who have a special knowledge of, or interest in, wine and spirits.

Membership of the Chaîne offers the opportunity for new members to meet people who share a common interest in fine dining and good fellowship. For the professional members, such as chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers, it offers opportunities to demonstrate their exceptional skills and creativity to a discerning, appreciative audience. Members receive an especially warm welcome in these establishments.

Today La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is the oldest and largest gastronomic organization in the world. More than 80,000 persons participate annually in its activities throughout the world with 7,000 members in the USA. Bailliages (Chapters) in more than 110 countries coordinate their programs through La Chaîne's international headquarters in Paris. In the United States, La Chaîne has approximately 150 local chapters. The National Office is located on the grounds of Farleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey.