November 18: National Vichyssoise Day
The History Of Vichyssoise
Let’s start with the origin and definition of vichyssoise and the correct pronunciation, which is vee-shee-SWAHZ. While it sounds like an old, classic French dish, this cold, creamy leek and potato soup was invented in America in 1917 and named after the French town of Vichy—long before Vichy would become the seat of France’s Nazi collaborationist government.
While the soup may have had its origin at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City, to give France its culinary due, a French chef born in a town near Vichy is credited as the creator.
Louis Diat was the chef at the hotel for most of the first half of the 20th century. In 1950, he recounted to The New Yorker magazine the potato and leek soup of his childhood, and how he would cool it off during the summer by pouring in cold milk, which resulted in a delicious summer soup. He decided to make something similar for the patrons of the Ritz.*
The soup was first called Crème Vichyssoise Glacée. Culinary historians point out that the French chef Jules Gouffé published a similar recipe with potatoes, leeks, chicken stock and cream, in Royal Cookery, in 1869, but did not serve it cold. There is also a form of the hot recipe called Potage Parmentier after Antoine Auguste Parmentier, who returned from a German prison-of-war camp after the Seven Year War (1756 to 1763) to find his countrymen starving, and set up potato soup kitchens throughout Paris to assist the poor.