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Bowl of vichyssoise soup. Source: Michael / Adobe Stock

Vichyssoise Is Served Cold Because King’s Taste-Test Took an Eternity


In the rich casserole of culinary history, few stories are as captivating as the legend surrounding the origin of vichyssoise soup. According to popular lore, the origin of this creamy delight is attributed to none other than King Louis XV of France, who reigned from 1715 to 1774.

The Origin of Vichyssoise: How Potato-Leek Soup Conquered France's Palate

Vichyssoise, pronounced  veesh-ees-wahz, is a chilled French soup made from puréed leeks, potatoes, cream and chicken stock. Served cold, usually during summer months, vichyssoise is known for its smooth texture and delicate flavor.

Potatoes were first introduced to France in the late 16th century, brought from South America by Spanish explorers. However, they initially faced resistance and skepticism from the French populace and were primarily grown as ornamental plants rather than food crops.

It wasn't until the efforts of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier—a French pharmacist, agronomist and chef—that potatoes began to gain widespread acceptance in France as a nutritious and versatile food source in the late 18th century.

Portrait of Antoine Parmentier by François Dumont, 1812. (Public domain)

Portrait of Antoine Parmentier by François Dumont, 1812. (Public domain)

Parmentier actively promoted potatoes as a solution to food scarcity and malnutrition during times of famine and war, by showcasing their culinary potential during public demonstrations and developing numerous potato-based recipes. These included  potage Parmentier, or Parmentier soup, which was a potato-leek soup of which vichyssoise is a variation.

Food tasters were a common presence in royal courts throughout the medieval and early modern periods. Their role was to sample food and drinks before they were consumed by royalty to ensure they were not poisoned—a precaution against assassination attempts.

Despite being known as Louis the Beloved, Louis XV was no different. Legend has it that as vichyssoise made its journey to the royal table, it underwent a meticulous tasting process before it was deemed fit for royal consumption. By that point the soup was cold. Variations of this legend abound, with some attributing the story to other King Louis of France, including Louis XIV and Louis XVI.

Louis XVI feasting, in an anonymous 1791 caricature representing the excesses of the monarchy. (Public domain)

Louis XVI feasting, in an anonymous 1791 caricature representing the excesses of the monarchy. (Public domain)

Unveiling the Culinary Truth About Vichyssoise

Behind the veil of myth of the genesis of vichyssoise lies the story of French chef Louis Diat, far from the royal court. Born in Vichy, France, Diat brought his homeland's essence to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City in 1917. MasterClass reported that, inspired by his mother's cold potato and leek soup, Diat sought to recreate its comforting flavors.

Through experimentation, he crafted the velvety potato-leek soup blend. Serving it chilled preserved its freshness and enhanced its taste, becoming a summer favorite. Despite humble beginnings, vichyssoise quickly soared to culinary stardom, captivating diners with its elegant simplicity and refreshing flavor, earning it a global culinary accolade.

Top image: Bowl of vichyssoise soup. Source: Michael / Adobe Stock

By Cecilia Bogaard

Cecilia Bogaard's picture


Cecilia Bogaard is one of the editors, researchers and writers on Ancient Origins. With an MA in Social Anthropology, and degree in Visual Communication (Photography), Cecilia has a passion for research, content creation and editing, especially as related to the... Read More

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