Where Does The Culinary Term 'Cordon Bleu' Come From?

In the culinary world, there are certain words, phrases, and names that automatically invoke respect and attention from all who hear them, but sometimes the origins of certain terms can get a little lost in the grandeur of the term itself. Cordon bleu is one such term, meaning "of the highest standard of skill in cooking," according to the Oxford Dictionary.

Technically, cordon bleu is just french for the blue ribbon, and upon the first level of inspection, it's fairly apparent where this term came to mean culinary excellence. Le Cordon Bleu is the name of one of the most recognizable and prestigious culinary schools in the world, with campuses all around the world and impressive alumni, like Dione Lucas, Virgilio Martinez, Ming Tsai, Julia Child, and so many more. Le Cordon Bleu has educated some of history's most prolific, successful, and award-winning chefs, so it's no wonder that the name became a term synonymous with distinction. But why a blue ribbon? Where did the name originate?

The best ribbons are bleu

The name is an old one dating back to France in the 16th century during the rule of King Henry III, according to Le Cordon Bleu. King Henry decided to create "L'Ordre du Saint-Esprit," one of the most important orders of historical French nobility in all of French history, whose symbol was a cross hanging on a blue ribbon, un cordon bleu. Because the order was so prestigious, its ceremonies were known for being accompanied by the most decadent and luxurious feasts.

Decades later, in 1895, a publisher of the magazine La Cuisinière Cordon Bleu opened a school for the culinary arts, with both the magazine and the school attempting to promote the recognizably illustrious food history of L'Ordre du Saint-Esprit by co-opting the imagery and name of le cordon bleu. And after decades of providing students with a stellar culinary education, producing brilliant alumni, and building on the history of France, saying something possess the blue ribbon has grown to be a term of reverence and respect.