Image courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi
Earlier this week, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City held a special event that took visitors back to a decadent time in history. The Met’s Feast of Versailles offered a look at the Palace of Versailles, and the elaborate cakes, pastries, and sugar sculptures that were enjoyed by Louis the XIV and French noble class of that time period.

Hosted by chef and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi, Feast of Versailles was an edible exploration of power and privilege through pastry. Ottolenghi was joined by food historian Deborah Krohn, as well as the world’s leading pastry chefs.

Among the culinary experts present were “World's Best Pastry Chef” Dominique Ansel, London's Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, Ukraine’s Dinara Kasko, Tunisia’s Ghaya F. Oliveira, and Singapore’s Janice Wong. These talented pastry chefs recreated some of the spectacular and imaginative cakes that were characteristic of the court's decadent cuisine.

Guests dressed in period-specific costumes for the occasion, and enjoyed a Versailles-themed dinner as part of the festivities.

“Versailles brings out all those images we have about decadence, about pushing the boundaries in every possible art form—architecture, design, landscape. And also in food,” Ottolenghi said at the event. “Late-seventeenth-century Versailles was kind of the equivalent of Disneyland. You came there to see, to be delighted and impressed. It was also slightly over the top, excessive, and decadent. Sometimes I think about it like Jurassic Park, where there’s dinosaurs walking around and they don’t know the end is coming.”

This time period was especially notable for changing the perception of having a separate course for sweet dishes. This was facilitated by (among other things) the cultivation of New World plantations, which lowered the price of sugar and allowed it to become a main ingredient instead of being used sparingly.