The Man Who Took Fish WAY Too Seriously

Reader Ford asks: where does the name “Chantilly cream” come from? It’s a very interesting and probably untrue story, Ford. Chantilly cream gets its name from the Château de Chantilly in northern France. That’s where Chantilly cream is supposed to have been invented by a fellow by the name of François Vatel — master of the house and servant of Louis, Prince of Condé — for a famous banquet for Louis XIV in April of 1671.

That banquet is also famous for causing the death of Vatel. So it’s said, Vatel was a notorious perfectionist who became so distraught over the failure of a local purveyor to deliver the required amount of fish that he went up to his chambers and stabbed himself with his own sword. Shortly afterward the remaining fish arrived.

It’s a story that seems, er, fishy to say the least (bad pun intended). However there are many food history mavens who insist on its truth and accuracy. I don’t know enough about French history to be able to judge, though I certainly have my doubts that Chantilly cream was invented at Château de Chantilly. The 17th Century was The Century of Foams. Every major chef in France (and beyond) was whipping up dairy and eggs in those days. The idea that François Vatel, who was not a chef but a chateau administrator, was the first to think of whipping cream and flavoring it with sugar and vanilla seems rather doubtful to me. But then I guess somebody had to do it first. Who really knows?

3 thoughts on “The Man Who Took Fish WAY Too Seriously”

    1. I’ve found that to be true, also, Kavey. People have differing ideas about what it is. Sweetened whipped cream seems to be the most common definition, at least in my universe, which is why I went that way. But thanks for this!

      – Joe

  1. Me too, Joe.

    To me Chantilly is cream sweetened with 15% by weight of icing sugar (10% if regular sugar is used) and flavored with 5% by weight of vanilla extract or equivalent. Sweetened whip cream is just that, whipped cream that has been sweetened.


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