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French cuisine is considered to be one of the world's most refined and elegant styles of cooking. The national cuisine known today has evolved from centuries of social and political change. The Middle Ages brought lavish banquets to the upper class with ornate, heavily seasoned food prepared by chefs such as Guillaume Tirel. The era of the French Revolution, however, saw a move toward fewer spices and more liberal usage of herbs and refined techniques, beginning with François Pierre La Varenne and further developing with the famous chef of Napoleon Bonaparte and other dignitaries, Marie-Antoine Carême.
French cuisine was codified in the 20th century by Georges Auguste Escoffier to become the modern version of haute cuisine. Escoffier's major work, however, left out much of the regional character to be found in the provinces of France. Gastro-tourism and the Guide Michelin helped to bring people to the countryside during the 20th century and beyond, to sample this rich bourgeois and peasant cuisine of France. Basque cuisine has also been a great influence over the cuisine in the southwest of France.
Ingredients and dishes vary by region. There are many significant regional dishes that have become both national and regional. Many dishes that were once regional, however, have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day. Cheese and wine are also a major part of the cuisine, playing different roles both regionally and nationally with their many variations and Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) (regulated appellation) laws.