"I would not call it the greatest cuisine in the world," historian Jean-Louis Flandrin of the University of Paris said. "The Chinese cuisine is greater than that of France. Other European cuisines may even be better than French cuisine. But at least in Europe, French cuisine is the most prestigious."
The truly great international reputation of French cuisine did not develop until the 19th Century. British historian Theodore Zeldin attributes this mainly to the revolution, which threw out of work many cooks of the aristocracy. To earn a living, they opened restaurants in Paris. Before the revolution in 1789, Paris had fewer than 50 restaurants; by 1820, it had almost 3,000.
A gastronome can step back into time in Paris and eat at one of the great 19th-Century restaurants like Le Grand Vefour in the Palais Royal. A favorite of Victor Hugo, Le Grand Vefour still displays the sumptuous and mirrored ornamentation of the 19th Century and still serves excellent meals.