Between 1893 and 1901, the Parisian traiteur Potel et Chabot catered a series of
gala meals celebrating the recent Franco-Russian alliance, which was heralded in France as
ending its diplomatic isolation following the Franco-Prussian War. The firm was well adapted
to the particularities of the unlikely alliance between Tsarist Russia and republican France.
On the one hand, it represented a tradition of French luxury production, including haute
cuisine, that the Third Republic was eager to promote. On the other, echoing the Republic’s
championing of scientific and technological progress, it relied on innovative transportation
and food conservation technologies, which it deployed spectacularly during a 1900 banquet
for over twenty-two thousand French mayors, a modern “mega-event.” Culinary discourse
therefore signaled, and palliated concerns about, the improbable nature of the alliance at
the same time as it revealed important changes taking place in the catering profession.