10 French Terms Every Culinary Student Should Know

November 22, 2017

Bonjour! French cuisine is regarded as the best. It sets the bar for everyone who aspires to be a beginner cook, a better cook, or the crème de la crème (the very best); a chef. If you’re a culinary student or prospective student who believes your passion – your art – is cooking, you’re not alone.


The History of French Cuisine

Actually, it was the Italians who began experimenting with flavorful creations and presentations. Crafting eye-pleasing and tasteful food, served on exquisitely designed dishes was becoming all the fashion in Italy. When a young Italian, Catherine de Medici, was sent to France to marry the future King Henry II, her initiation of fine dining caused a “culinary explosion.” It led to publication of Le Cuisine François in 1652 by chef La Varenne, one of the first modern cookbooks with recipes and instructions.

French Culinary Terms You Will Hear in the Kitchen


Cooking for pleasure is a rewarding hobby, but when your desire to cook for others is tantamount, it’s time to enroll in a culinary degree program. There, you will learn about the everyday terms chefs use that have their origins in French cuisine. You’ll be surprised at the number of French terms you use frequently, including:


1. Bisque

A bisque is basically shellfish cooked in mirepoix (see #2).  The term bisque, and its true meaning, have become diluted over the years.  It has pretty much become a term for any creamy soup such as “tomato bisque.”  However, for it to be an authentic bisque, it must contain shellfish.


2. Mirepoix

Mirepoix refers to two parts onion to one part each of celery and carrot, chopped.  This is used as a flavoring agent in soups, stews, or to cover meat when roasting.  Sometimes bacon or salt pork is added to the mirepoix, but it is not needed.


3. Canapés

You hear and see this term a lot, most likely at cocktail parties.  But what exactly is a canapé?  The term canapé has the same meaning as the term hors-d’œuvre, which is something smaller than an appetizer.  Almost like a one-biter.  In classic French preparation, canapés and hors’dœvre consist of small slices of bread slightly toasted and with a garnish on one side.  The garnish is subject to taste and the ingredients that are on hand.


4. Fondue

Fondue is most commonly heard referring to cheese.  Which is correct.  Fondue can mean a cheese preparation but it can also mean a pulpy state to which vegetables like tomatoes are reduced to by cooking.


5. Mise-en-Place

It is a general name given to those elementary preparations which are constantly resorted to during the various stages of most culinary operations.  So basically, it means to have all of your ingredients ready to go when you are cooking so they are easily accessible and properly prepared according to the recipe or chef’s preference.


6. Pâte a Choux

When you think of chocolate eclairs or cream puffs, you might be wondering what the dough is that is used to make those pastries.  Well, the dough is pâte a choux.  It is a dough that consists of water, butter, salt, sugar, flour and eggs.  The process of making it can be difficult to perfect at first, but just knowing what it is is a great start.


7. Poach

To poach a food item means to cook very slowly in a small amount of water at the lowest temperature.  Many things can be poached such as eggs and poultry.


8. Purée

A purée refers to any food that is strained through a sieve, so that it forms a complete mass.  The consistency of the purée will depend on the ingredient being puréed.  Any food can be puréed, not just soups and sauces.


9. Soufflé

Soufflé is a name given to a class of light, hot or cold preparations of fish, meat, poultry, etc.  Also to sweets to which the whites of eggs are added if the preparation is served hot, and to which whipped cream is added if it is served cold.

What many people associate with just dessert, a soufflé can also be savory, including ingredients such as spinach.


10. Petit Four

A petit four is a french term for a small confectionery or savory appetizer.  These can be small cakes, cupcakes, truffles, quiches, etc and is literally translated to “small oven.”  There are thousands of recipes out there for petit four and each are unique, but for a true petit four, all items should be uniform.


Your exciting Chef career is well within reach! It's time to turn your passion and creativity into your dream career at HTMi Hotel and Tourism Management Institute & Culinary Arts Academy at Switzerland. 
Course Detail:

  • Advanced or Postgraduate Diploma in European Baking and Pastry Arts

  • Advanced or Postgraduate Diploma in Culinary Arts (Tailor-Made)  at  HTMi Hotel and Tourism Management Institute

  • Dual Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts

  • Master of International Business in Culinary Management

  • Specialisation in Swiss Pastry & Chocolate Arts at Culinary Arts Academy


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