A Brief History Of… Alexis Soyer
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 was soon serving over five thousand meals a day. He also started soup kitchens in London feeding the poor. After reading of the poor conditions in Crimea, near the Black Sea, Soyer volunteered to go there and assist. He worked with Florence Nightingale and also invented the Army Catering Corp and Soyer‘s Field Stove.
Alexis Soyer was not well when he returned to London from Crimea and died in August ,1858. Unfortunately this great chef and philanthropist was not ever rewarded or honored for his great accomplishments and very few of his writings are known to exist today.
Chef Jules Pernell; CEC, FMP, CCE