Let’s take a little tour of the Escoffier Museum. You may not have heard of Monsieur Escoffier but you don’t have to be a foodie to have heard of Peach Melba, possibly one of the most famous desserts in the world. Now you might have already guessed that Escoffier has something to do with this delicious dish and you’d be right.
Auguste Escoffier is the creator of the Pêche Melba, the father of modern French cuisine and one of the most influential chefs of all time. The Escoffier Museum of Culinary Art, le Musée Escoffier de l’Art Culinaire is the childhood home of the great chef and it just happens to be 10 minutes down the road from Lou Messugo.
Where is the Escoffier Museum?
The Escoffier Museum is a 4 story townhouse on a narrow, gently sloping pedestrian street in the picturesque old village of Villeneuve-Loubet – a “low” hill village a couple of kilometres inland from the modern part of Villeneuve-Loubet on the coast.
This is the house where Escoffier was born in 1846 and it celebrated its 50th anniversary as a museum on 2nd May 2016 (the very day I started my museum series, pity I didn’t know as it would have been an auspicious choice for a first visit!)
Who is Escoffier?
Escoffier is considered possibly the most important French chef, certainly of the 19th and early 20th century, as much for his culinary creations as for the developments he made in restaurant kitchens.
He reorganised staff introducing discipline to the kitchen. Escoffier brought in modern equipment and developed menus elevating the status of a cook to that of a respected profession.
He published a major work entitled Le Guide Culinaire which is still used as a cookbook and for reference today, and many of his innovations are also still highly respected not only in France but across the world.
Escoffier’s illustrious career included time at the Savoy Hotel in London, The Paris Ritz, the Carlton in London and finally the London Ritz. In 1893 during his time at the Savoy he created the Pêche Melba in honour of the Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba. Another of his very famous creations was the poire belle-Hélène.
Working at these top hotels Escoffier cooked for high society including royalty and he became known as “the king of chefs, the chef of kings”. He was the first ever chef to receive the Légion d’honneur.
The Escoffier Museum
The museum, which is the only museum solely dedicated to culinary art in France, has recently been renovated and despite being small and very traditional is pleasantly designed, well laid out and well-lit (no hands-on interactive displays here!)
Each room (on different levels) showcases various historical exhibits relating to French cuisine and of course to Escoffier’s life and works. The room set up as his study is the actual room of his birth and nowadays contains his desk.
Among the many items on display in the rooms set up as kitchens, I particularly enjoyed a beautiful traditional pottery service for bouillabaisse and had a chuckle over some pressure cookers (as a pressure cooker was only thing JF wanted on our wedding list, they have personal and almost romantic connotations for me, yes really!)
There are explanations in English for most things in the museum though a knowledge of French will definitely help you get the most out of your visit.
After the areas displaying kitchen items you walk through a sliding glass door into a refrigerated room full of chocolate and sugar sculptures (including the oldest sugar sculpture in the world, of a locomotive). The smell is heavenly (don’t go if you’re dieting or trying to stay off chocolate!)
All the creations are made by local pâtisserie chefs who can be seen in a giant photo recreating the Last Supper of Christ on one end wall.
The top floor of the museum is dedicated to menus: menus from banquets for Queen Elizabeth, other royals, film stars and high society, and from luxury hotels and ocean liners.
It’s fascinating to read about the extravagant dishes produced over the years for the rich and famous and how even menus for British royalty visiting New Zealand in the 1950s were written in French.
Is the Escoffier Museum for everyone?
The Escoffier museum is great for anyone with an interest in gastronomy and/or French cuisine, aspiring cooks, professional chefs and foodies, but I’d say it’s also of value for those interested in social history.
It makes a delightful little visit out of the sun or rain for an hour or so (it doesn’t take long to see everything). However, I wouldn’t recommend it for young children. Though there is a small area where they can play educational games relating to food (all in French) this museum cannot be described as interactive and child-friendly.
It is also not suitable for wheelchair users as it is on several levels without a lift.
The Escoffier Museum is open every day from 10.00-13.00 and 14.00-18.00 (19.00 in July and August). It is closed on some public holidays and has restricted hours in December (best to check the website).
It costs 6€ for adults, 4€ for students and is free for under 11s.
For further details, check its website.
The museum is located at 3 rue Auguste Escoffier in Villeneuve-Loubet which is a pedestrian street. There is plenty of parking in the free carparks surrounding the village. It is also easy to get to by bus from Nice or Grasse on line 500 (Villeneuve-Loubet village stop) and line 23 from Antibes to La Colle sur Loup.
Insider’s Tip: if you go in June to September you get a free tasting of the famous Peach Melba dessert.
What do you think? Have you been or would you like to visit the Escoffier Museum?
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This post was originally published in 2016 and has been fully updated for 2022
OMG – this looks like my perfect museum.
Brilliant Rosie! What makes it so perfect for you?
Thank you for this review, I found you when searching for something to do in the rain and loved the museum. A real little gem. I’m a keen cook and love food history.
oh I’m so pleased, thanks for the feedback Linda!
Stayin in Nice planning to visit the museum. In Australia this dish common as it is claimed that it was named for Dame Nelly Melba a famous Australian born opera singer.
Yes, that’s exactly right, as I said in the article!
C’est unique, merveilleux, merci de sauvegarder la mémoire du savoir provençal . L’art culinaire a besoin d’etre revisité, pour que chacun l’apprécie Ã Â sa juste valeur . Y-a-t-il des artisans spécialisés dans ” l’entretien” et la conservation des potagers provençaux , je vous remercie de m’indiquer l’adresse et le lieu de ces artisans locaux.
Merci pour votre commentaire Simone-Marie, je suis désolé je ne connais rien sur le sujet de la conservation des potagers provençaux!
Oh I think I would enjoy this museum.
That’s good to hear Emse
Very interesting post! I love food and cooking and it would be great to visit this museum. And I have never tried Peach Melba, shame on me!
I loved the menus displayed as a dress, very creative.
You’ll have to look out for peach melba Sara, it’s very yummy!
Very interesting! Can’t you believe I have never tried a peach melba? I will have to do some research and try the dessert. I’m a bit surprised by the pressure cookers in one of your photos. They look dangerous. I imagine how time consuming cooking was without all the modern tools we have.
old pressure cookers always look scarily dangerous I agree but modern ones are great! Let me know if you find a peach melba to try….
Ooh this sounds fabulous. I’d love to peruse those banquet menus. Escoffier is a bit of a hero of mine. Thanks for the review
Good to hear from an Escoffier fan! The menus were fascinating.
This sounds unexpectedly fascinating – I’m impressed at all the different exhibits they’ve got together (the sugar sculpture sounds a highlight). A museum to make you hungry I suspect.
The chocolate and sugar sculptures smell so good that I came out craving chocolate (but that’s not unusual for me!)
Very informative post Phoebe! I knew nothing about the man behind peach melba!
so now you do! lol!! 🙂
Before I discovered blogging, I used to read the type of murder mystery where the action took place among some random community, physical or professional, mainly because of the small but interesting insights you could gain into people’s lives far removed from mine.
One of these had as its detective a chef who was obsessed with Escoffier (I think he may have worked with Escoffier) and the Peach Melba. So I am delighted to find there is a museum devoted to the great man, although a little disappointed to find there isn’t some kind of eatery attached. Or does the general location go to town on that?
How funny that you remember the book and now know there’s a little museum dedicated to Escoffier! No there’s no café and the local cafés don’t pay much attention to the Peach Melba either I’m afraid. During food fairs in Villeneuve-Loubet there’s usually a demonstration stand making and selling them but that’s about it. It’s a bit of a wasted opportunity I agree.
Sure would like to visit in fact we may well visit today as we are staying at Lou Messugo. Thank you for this fascinating blog
Glad to be of service Catherine, I hope you enjoy the museum if you go.
Thank you Adi!
This museum looks lovely! And an accompanying Peach Melba tasting seems like the perfect cherry on the cake 🙂
I wish they’d sell them all year not just in the summer!