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Culinary arts, in which culinary means "related to cooking", are the arts of preparation, cooking, and presentation of food, usually in the form of meals. People working in this field – especially in establishments such as restaurants – are commonly called "chefs" or "cooks", although, at its most general, the terms "culinary artist" and "culinarian" are also used. Table manners ("the table arts") are sometimes referred to as a culinary art.
Expert chefs are required to have knowledge of food science, nutrition and diet and are responsible for preparing meals that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate. After restaurants, their primary places of work include delicatessens and relatively large institutions such as hotels and hospitals.
The origins of culinary began with primitive humans roughly 2 million years ago. There are various theories as to how early humans used fire to cook meat. According to anthropologist Richard Wrangham, author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, primitive humans simply tossed a raw hunk of meat into the flames and watching it sizzle. Another theory claims humans may first have savored roasted meat by chance when the flesh of a beast killed in a forest fire was found to be more appetizing and easier to chew and digest than the conventional raw meat.
Culinary techniques improved with the introduction of earthenware and stoneware, the domestication of livestock, and advancements in agriculture. In early civilizations, the primary employers of professional chefs were kings, aristocrats, or priests. The divide between professional chefs cooking for the wealthy and peasants cooking for their families engendered the development of many cuisines. Each class sought to create distinct culinary experience synonymous with their cultural identity.
A great deal of the study of Culinary Arts in Europe was organized by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a man famous for his quote "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are," which has since been mistranslated and oversimplified into "You are what you eat." Other people helped to parse out the different parts of food science and gastronomy. Over time, increasingly deeper and more detailed studies into foods and the Culinary Arts has led to a greater wealth of knowledge.
In Asia, a similar path led to a separate study of the Culinary Arts, which later essentially merged with the Western counterpart. In the modern international marketplace, there is no longer a distinct divide between Western and Eastern foods. Culinary Arts students today, generally speaking, are introduced to the different cuisines of many different cultures from around the world.
The Culinary Arts, in the Western world, as a craft and later as a field of study, began to evolve at the end of the Renaissance period. Prior to this, chefs worked in castles, cooking for kings and queens, as well as their families, guests, and other workers of the castle. As Monarchical rule became phased out as a modality, the chefs took their craft to inns and hotels. From here, the craft evolved into a field of study.
Before cooking institutions, professional cooks were mentors for individual students who apprenticed under them. In 1879 the first cooking school was founded in the United States: the Boston Cooking School. This school standardized cooking practices and recipes, and laid the groundwork for the culinary arts schools that would follow.
Today, there are thousands of Culinary Arts schools around the world. Additionally, most universities, as well as many smaller tertiary schools like community colleges, offer some type of Culinary Arts Degree, which is technically a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
Modern Culinary Arts students study many different aspects of food. Specific areas of study include butchery, chemistry and thermodynamics, visual presentation, food safety, human nutrition and physiology, international history, the manufacture of food items (such as the milling of wheat into flour or the refining of cane plants into crystalline sucrose), and many others.
Training in culinary arts is possible in most countries around the world. Usually at tertiary level (university). With institutions government funded, privately funded or commercial.
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- Institute for Research. Careers and jobs in the restaurant business: jobs, management, ownership. Chicago: The Institute, 1977.
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