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A garde manger (French for "keeper of the food") is a cool, well-ventilated area where cold dishes (such as salads, hors d'œuvres, appetizers, canapés, pâtés and terrines) are prepared and other foods are stored under refrigeration. The person in charge of this area is known as the chef garde manger or pantry chef. Larger hotels and restaurants may have garde manger staff to perform additional duties, such as creating decorative elements of buffet presentation like ice carving and edible centerpieces made from materials such as cheese, Thai fruit and vegetable carvings, butter, salt dough or tallow.
The term "garde manger" originated in pre-Revolutionary France. At that time, maintaining a large supply of food and beverage was an outward symbol of power, wealth and status. It is because of this duty of supervising the preserving of food and managing its utilization that many interpret the term "garde manger" as keeping to eat.
The term "garde manger" is also related to the cold rooms inside castles and manor houses where the food was stored. These food storage areas were usually located in the lower levels, since the cool basement-like environment was ideal for storing food. These cold storage areas developed over time into the modern cold kitchen.
Most merchants who worked outside noble manors at this time were associated with a guild, an association of persons of the same trade formed for their mutual aid and protection. Guilds would develop training programs for their members, thereby preserving their knowledge and skills. Charcuterie was the name of a guild that prepared and sold cooked items made from pigs. Through this organization, the preparation of hams, bacon, sausages, pates and terrines were preserved. When the guild system was abolished in 1791 following the French Revolution of 1789, garde mangers took on the responsibility for tasks that had formerly been performed by charcutieres, who had difficulty competing with the versatile garde mangers due to the limited range of skills involved.
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