Piano de cuisine

range cookerOne of the biggest dangers that a French translator faces living in the UK is the gradual estrangement from her mother tongue. There are many ways to fight against it, including reading in French, downloading podcasts of French radio programs, watching French films at my wonderful local cinema and, of course, going to France whenever I can.
I spent a week with my family in October. My sister and her husband recently bought a new house, and my sister mentioned that she was thinking of getting a piano. A piano?? But we’re not a musical family! In fact, in my whole extended family, I don’t think there is one musician. Lots of hunters, fishermen, rugby players and amazing cooks, but not one musician. I had concluded that my sister must be willing to break from family tradition and to try a new educational path for my nephews, until she mentioned that two ovens would be really handy. It turned out that she talking about a piano de cuisine (range cooker), which is a term I had never heard before.
Piano de cuisine (literal translation: kitchen piano) is a term used in the world of professional cooks and designates a big cooker, with several hobs and ovens. This type of cooker, once only found in restaurant kitchens, has become popular in France in the last few years, which is why I’ve missed out on the word entering everyday use. Why “piano”? I couldn’t find a convincing explanation anywhere. Maybe it’s because pianos de cuisine are supposed to be in the middle of a professional kitchen, like a grand piano stands in the middle of a stage. Maybe French cooks see themselves as artists composing edible works of art.

Range cooker photo by Grégory Tonon

By |2010-11-22T20:00:19+00:00November 22nd, 2010|Language|4 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Erin November 22, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    You mention podcasts of French radio programs — can you suggest some of your favourites? I’m a big listener of English-language podcasts, but I don’t know where to start looking for French ones!

  2. Licia November 23, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Maybe piano was originally an Italian loanword that underwent a shift in meaning when it was adopted by professional cooks? The Italian noun “piano” has several meanings, among which “flat upper surface of a piece of furniture”, e.g. in a kitchen context “piano di cottura” is a hob and “piano di lavoro” is a worktop.

  3. céline November 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    @Erin: I suggest you go on French radio stations’ websites to look at their programs. My favourite is RTL’s On refait le monde (http://www.rtl.fr/emission/on-refait-le-monde): debates about current affairs, which allow me to keep up with the evolution of language and with what’s happening in France.
    @Licia: now that is a convincing explanation!

  4. Anaïs April 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Ou peut-être parce que sur un piano de cuisine on peut cuisiner plusieurs plats en même temps, comme on joue plusieurs notes sur un piano…?

Comments are closed.