A BRIEF HISTORY OF
Alexis Soyer was a French chef who became famous in Victorian London in the 1830‘s. He was born February 4th 1810 at Meaux-en-Brie on the Marne in France. Soyer‘s parents were grocers but the family had fallen on bad financial times by the time of his birth. At the age of nine he moved to Paris to live with his brother Phillipe, an established chef.
Young Alexis was a quick learner and by the time he was 17 he had become a celebrated chef with 12 chefs under his guide. However, by the time he was 31, Soyer left for England to join his brother who was now working for the Duke of Cambridge. In 1837 he became chef de cuisine at the famous Reform Club in London. Soyer became well known for his kitchen designs and innovations, including cooking with gas and ovens with adjustable temperatures. In 1938,his salary was 1000 pounds a year….more than two thousand dollars, and his Lamb Cutlets Reform is still on the menu at the club.
Soyer took a leave from the Reform Club to help with the plight of the Irish during the potato famine of 1847. He invented a soup kitchen and… Continue reading
Chef Erhardt was one of the first chefs to gain widespread popularity on American Television. While many of us remember him for his guest appearances on QVC and other shows of this type it should be known that Chef Erhardt was a highly skilled culinarian.
Born in Stuggart, Gremany in 1943, he was the son of a German Newspaper publisher. After playing the part of William Tell in a play, the name “Tell” would become his moniker. At the age of 14 young Paul entered into a strict training program for chefs. He earned the title of Master Chef while in his twenties, the youngest to ever do so. Also he received a Masters degree in cooking from the University of Heidelberg, won several culinary competitions and was named Germany`s Chef of the Year.
Chef Erhardt moved to the United States when he was 28 years old to take a position at Philadelphia‘s Marriott Hotel. He gained notoriety when he landed a 90 second cooking short on a local T.V. show “Evening Magazine” which was nationally syndicated. He later hosted a show for public television and was known for using humor in his cooking shows. Chef Tell‘s popularity and… Continue reading
Adriana Orr was a library researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary and had been asked the origin of the word “nacho.” Through all of her research, the only definition she could find meant “flat-nosed,” but she was quite sure the modern meaning of the word had not come from this derivative. Over time, she continued to hit a brick wall until a young girl overheard her discussion of the problem and told Ms Orr that Nacho is short for Ignacio, a man who lives in her village in Mexico.
Adriana went to the small village of Piedras Negras, and met Chef Ignacio Anaya, chef of the Victory Club, who told her he had served the dish to a group of ladies on a shopping trip who came by the restaurant after it had already closed.. He made the dish using available ingredients and named it Nachos Especiales.
An interesting side note is that a waitress by the name of Carmen Rocha, a waitress at El Cholo Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles in the late 1950’s is credited for making Nachos popular. Jack Nicholson remembers her as a friendly outgoing lady that loved to make this special snack for special guests… Continue reading
Choron was best known for inventing the Choron sauce. This, of course, is the béarnaise sauce enriched with tomato concentrate before reduction. Recipes will be included at the conclusion of this article. Perhaps his menu selections while chef de cuisine at the famous restaurant Vosin are most intriguing. On September 19, 1879 the Siege of Paris by the Prussians began. During the siege, Parisians were forced to eat animals such as cat, dog, and rat. The bourgeois did not want to dine this low on the food chain so demand at deluxe restaurants remained high. Since food reserves were getting more and more scarce, chefs had to improvise. Choron soon started serving exotic animal from the local zoo, and for the Christmas meal of 1870, served stuffed head of donkey, elephant consommé, roasted camel, kangaroo stew, bear shanks roasted in pepper sauce and several others to include antelope in truffle sauce. The famous wines served included Mouton –Rothchild, Romanee-Conti, and Chateau Palmer.
Choron was famous for his elephant dishes and he used many from various Paris zoos for his cuisine at Voisin purchased at 15 francs per pound. When elephant meat ran out, horse meat was substituted. So the next… Continue reading
Food & Business Tips
Alain Chapel was regarded as one of the finest French chefs. Born in Lyon in December 1937, he received his early training by working in the kitchen of his Father’s bistro and inn. After training in other local shops, Chapel worked with Fernand Point at “La Pyramide” in Vienne. In 1967, he returned to the family bistro, now a restaurant, and gained it a Michelin star. Upon the death of his father in 1970, Chapel opened the inn as a hotel and in 1973 he received his third Michelin star at the restaurant. At this time only 19 restaurants in France had received this highest of honours. Among his most famous dishes were stuffed calf’s ears with parsley and truffled-stuffed chicken in pork bladder .This was cooked in a rich chicken reduction stock. New York Times food writer, Craig Claiborne praised Chapel’s “gateau de foies blonds” as “one of the absolute cooking glories of this generation”. For the unfamiliar, this dish consisted of pureed chicken livers and beef marrow with a mousse-like lobster cream. A seven course meal was not uncommon. While these dishes do not reflect nouvelle cuisine as many chefs now think of it,… Continue reading
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… Continue reading
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French lawyer and politician, was born in 1775 in Bresse, a region well known for food and wine. He was among the first to write about cuisine and gained fame as an epicure and gastronome. A brilliant individual, Brilliat-Savarin studied law, chemistry and medicine in Dijon. As a politician he was first elected magistrate, then mayor of his town. He was forced to flee the country after the French Revolution, eventually making his way to New York where he supported himself by teaching French and giving violin lessons. He met Thomas Jefferson and persuaded him to part with his wild turkey recipe while visiting Philadelphia. Brillat- Savarin returned to France in 1776 where he was a judge and writer. The rest of his life was spent entertaining friends and dining at the finest French restaurants. A prolific journalist, his gastronomic memoirs filled many pages with recipes and anecdotes.
Brillanr –Savarin is most well known for his work, The Physiology of Taste, published in 1825, and the book has not been out of print since. The most noted English translation was done by M. F. K. Fisher, food writer and critic in 1949 and is held in… Continue reading
The French restaurateur Fernand Point (1897-1955) was the father of modern French cuisine and considered by many to be one of the greatest chefs ever.
His restaurant “La Pyramide” was located near Lyon, France in a small town. From this remote location he earned the three star Michelin Award and trained a generation of French Master chefs including Paul Bocuse and Alain Chapel . Point opened his restaurant shortly after World War I and pioneered many of the aspects of nouvelle cuisine.
As a small boy, he was introduced to cooking by his mother and grandmother, both cordons bleus cooks at his father`s restaurant. Cordon bleus originally referred to an award given to women chefs .Point moved to Lyon in 1922 to pursue his culinary endeavors. He built on the foundations of la grande cuisine and was the culinary and cultural intermediary between Escoffier and nouvelle cuisine. He would often work from five o`clock am until 11 o’clock hand.
Married in 1930, his wife Mary-Louise became an intricate part of the restaurant. She was in charge of service and attended to most all details associated with the business. This allowed Point time to concentrate even more on his remarkable cuisine… Continue reading
FOOD HISTORY 101
The history of Peaches is a rather interesting one and I have to admit I was surprised by it a little. I always think of Peaches as a southern staple and have always just assumed they were a product of the Americas. In fact peaches were the first fruit crop domesticated in China about 4000 years ago and had a lot of religious significance to the Chinese. Peaches were believed to be a symbol of longevity and tranquility. It was said that Mother Hsi Wang Mu ’s peach garden appeared only once every 3000 years and the resulting fruit was used to make the gods elixir of immortality. From Asia the peach made its way to Ancient Greece and Rome where it was believed to be an aphrodisiac. The peach was the fruit of Venus and also symbolized truth, a peach with a leaf attached was believed to represent the union of the heart and tongue, hence truth. As with many historical topics it is debated when the peach made its first appearance in the Americas, some say the mid to late 1600 ’s and others say not until the early 1700 ’s. Either way… Continue reading