How Did Haute Cuisine Come to America?

By | May 11, 2019

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Pièces montées for a banquet being prepared in the Delmonico's kitchen in 1902. Source: (

To Europeans in the early 19th century, American cuisine was crude. Americans ate too fast. They slurped and scarfed down the main meal of the day in twenty minutes. There was neither the conversation nor the refinement that well-heeled travelers expected. Instead, there were crude oyster cellars and coffee houses. There were no proper restaurants. America was a gastronomic desert.

This changed when Delmonico’s was founded in New York City in 1827.

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Delmonico's, Beaver and William Streets, 1893. Source: (

Delmonico’s was originally a pastry shop and café started by Pietro and Giovanni Del-Monico (later just Delmonico) hailed from the canton of Ticino in the Italian Alps. Giovanni had come to America and had set up a small enterprise importing and rebottling wine before convincing Pietro to join him. The brothers Americanized their names to Peter and John and set up their venture, Restaurant Français des Frères Delmonico, at 23 William Street near Wall Street. The name became shortened to Delmonico’s.

Both brothers were adept despite only Peter having some experience as a pastry cook.

Delmonico’s stood out for its high-quality food that embraced traditional haute cuisine. More remarkable was the level of service, which was beyond anything available then in the United States. By 1831 the brothers expanded into 25 William Street and were only set back in 1835 when a massive fire which burned much of lower Manhattan destroyed their original location. But the brothers recovered and moved to 2 William Street at the intersection of Beaver Street.

The business throve. Well over a century before using local ingredients became trendy, the brothers bought a farm in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to supply fresh ingredients. The William Street location became the “Citadel” of the nascent epicurean empire.