The Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is an international society that unites professional and amateur gastronomes in a private, not-for-profit society committed to promoting the culinary and hospitality arts and oenology through example, education and camaraderie. In short, it is devoted to promoting fine dining and preserving the camaraderie and pleasures of the table.
A Little History
The Chaîne, as we know it today, was originally established in France in 1248 by King Louis IX as the "Royal Guild of Goose Roasters". This organization, during the first few hundred years, was primarily interested in cooking the goose correctly. In 1509, new statutes were introduced, which resulted in the change of the name "Guild" to "Rôtisseurs" and its activities were expanded to include poultry, game birds, lamb, and venison. During those early years of the Guild/Rôtisseurs, the court cooks served King Louis IX (the Saint), Phillip III (the Bold), Philip IV (the Fair), and the following 21 Kings of France in grand style. In 1610, 362 years after being established, and in recognition of their excellent service, the Rôtisseurs received its Royal Warrant as "The Brotherhood of Roasters" and its coat of arms was granted. The coat of arms consisted of two crossed turning spits and four larding needles, surrounded by flames of the hearth on a shield encircled by 12 fleur-de-lis and an inter chain representing the mechanism used to turn the spit. The coat of arms can be seen in the modern Chaîne banner. Everything inside the inner chain link circle is how the original coat of arms looked. However, The Brotherhood of Roasters and the country of France, as we knew them then, were soon to end. There was a political movement brewing within the country, and the movement would soon grow into a full fledge French revolution.
The French Revolution
The French Revolution started in 1789, and lasted for ten years. In France, this was a period of radical, social, and political turmoil. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed. French society underwent an epic transformation as the aristocratic, religious privileges, and the medieval social system evaporated under an unrelenting assault from liberal political groups and the masses on the streets. Old ideas about hierarchy and tradition gave way to new enlightenment principles of citizenship and inalienable rights. During the revolution, the Chaîne organization was abolished along with all the other guilds, clubs, societies, and other organizations that were not in the interest of the ordinary people. It was not until 161 years later in 1950 in Paris that a modern incarnation of the Chaîne was re-founded. This organization has since gone from a newly born initiative to a worldwide thriving organization. As a result of the rebirth of the Chaîne, its original coat of arms was modified. The outer chain circle, along with the legend Chaîne des Rôtisseurs was added. The inner chain circle now represents the professional members while the outer chain represents the non-professional members. Both chains represent the bond which unites all of the members of the Chaîne society together. The dates 1248-1950 represent the birth, and the rebirth of the organization.
The Chaîne Today
The international headquarters remains in Paris where the society was founded. The present day Chaîne des Rôtisseurs is still based on the traditions and practices of the ancient French brotherhood but now in a truly international and modern-day context. The Chaîne unites both professional caterers and amateur gastronomes who enjoy good food and good wine. There are over 30,000 members in 123 countries, organized into National, Regional, and local Bailliages. The United States, even though getting a late start compared to European countries, currently have more Chaîne members than any other country in the world. The first Bailliage to form in the US was in New York in 1960. In 1969 the US was on a roll with 22 bailliages. Currently there are more than 8,000 members in 146 bailliages in United States. The San Antonio Bailliage, which is one bailliage out of nine in Texas, has approximately 100 members.
The Chaîne today continues with its original charter from 1248. It actively encourages the raising of catering standards and the training of future chefs. Each member country holds annual commis-rôtisseur (food preparation) competitions. The winners of these competitions at the local bailliage and regional level work themselves up competing and hoping to become the national winner. The national winners from around the world will then go forward to the international final cook off held in one of the member countries. The 2010 national winners assembled in Helsinki Finland on September 17 for the grand international competition. Unfortunately, the chef from America did not place — Top Chef was from South Africa, number two from Germany, and number three from Canada.