The Debated Origins Of Vichyssoise

Vichyssoise is quite a mouthful, both in terms of its French pronunciation (veesh-ees-wahz, via MasterClass) and its plentiful ingredients. The soup consists of butter, celery, chicken stock, chive, fennel, garlic, heavy cream, leek, onion, parsley, pepper, potato, salt, shallot, tarragon, and thyme. After about an hour of boiling, then simmering and stirring, you've got yourself ... potato-leek soup, per Andrew Zimmern. How then does it become the cold, but velvety vichyssoise? The key, says MasterClass, is puréeing and, typically, chilling vichyssoise. As with the preparation methods, ingredients can also vary; MasterClass says cauliflower, parsnips, peas, sour cream, and vegetable stock can also be found in the dish. 

Regardless of how one makes it, vichyssoise is a creamy soup that works well as a light lunch or as a dinner's first course, as noted by What's Cooking America. The good news for chefs is that despite its number of ingredients, the dish is also relatively simple to make, per Taste of Home. But whom do we thank for this culinary concoction?

Hazy beginnings

Potato-leek soup is a French invention named "potage Parmentier," in France, after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a cook who championed the use of potatoes in French food (via MasterClass). Several theories about how it became the cold version we know today exist. One legend suggests that King Louis XV was afraid of being poisoned, so he forced multiple servants to taste-test his food before it got to him. By the time his beloved potato soup reached him, it was cold, and the first vichyssoise was invented, per What's Cooking America. As far back as the 1800s, cookbooks had listed creamy and even puréed potato-leek soups. However, those weren't chilled.

The consensus seems to be that Louis Diat, a French Chef, made the first true vichyssoise in the early 1900s. As a kid growing up in central France, Diat and his brother had often supplemented his mom's hot potato-leek soup with cold milk whenever it was warm outside (via MasterClass). Despite being summertime, it was cold in New York City the morning Diat made the potato-leek soup that would become the first vichyssoise (via Andrew Zimmern). The potato-leek soup was refrigerated, then blended, strained, and creamed becoming something totally new. The result was dubbed crème vichyssoise glacée. And the rest is history!