A Brief History of…. Marie-Antoine Careme
A Brief History…by Jules Pernell
Careme was born in Paris in 1784 of destitute parents. He was abandoned at age ten and forced to make his own way in the world. It is thought that he had as many as twenty or more brothers and sisters, perhaps explaining his cruel fate.
Careme found a job at a Parisian chophouse, working there for room and board. He was recognized by the patisserie Bailly for his talent and drive and was given employment. While working with Bailly, Careme became known for his elaborate centerpieces and the invention of gros nougats and other confections. He opened his own bake shop until 1813 at which time he began to expand on his many culinary endeavors.
The famous French diplomat and gourmand Talleyrand-Perigord hired Careme as his chef de cuisine when Careme was just twenty one years old. He soon extended his skills to main courses which led to his inventions of new types of cuisines and many culinary advances. Among his many exploits was the invention of the five “mother sauces” as well as the chef’s toque and many more too numerous to mention in a brief article.
Careme was indeed the most famous chef of the post-Revolution France, having worked for Napoleon, the Rothchilds and Czar Alexander. Careme became wealthy from the sale of his books which included perhaps thousands of recipes, French history, kitchen design, and instruction. It is said that Careme literally gave his life for Gastronomy. He died in 1833 at the age of 48 from carbon- monoxide poisoning due to inhaling the toxic fumes he inhaled from the charcoal he cooked with. Unfortunately, he was buried in an unmarked grave and no one attended his funeral due to a cholera epidemic. Careme was known as “The King of Chefs, and the Chef of Kings” and considered to be the first celebrity chef.