CHILDHOOD IN VILLENEUVE-LOUBET (ALPES-MARITIMES – FRANCE)
Auguste Escoffier was born on 28 October 1846 in Villeneuve-Loubet in the family home, at the foot of the Castle of the Marquis de Panisse Passis who reigned over the village. In this house are now the headquarters of the Disciples Escoffier International, the Escoffier Foundation, and the Escoffier Museum of Culinary Art.
THE FAMILY ESCOFFIER: FORGERMEN AND COOKS
His father’s name was Jean-Baptiste; His mother Madeleine, born Civatte.
His grandfather, Augustin, after having made his tour of France as a blacksmith apprentice, was later wounded at the end of the First Empire (he was a grenadier of the Guard), had returned to Villeneuve-Loubet and had settled there as a blacksmith. He had also married and had five boys and one daughter. The elder, Jean-Baptiste, became a blacksmith.
FIRST CULINARY EMOTIONS
For, as he says in his “Unpublished Memories“, ” he did not have the “sacred cult of the kitchen “: he dreamt of becoming a sculptor. He will partly satisfy this dream by later sculpting wax flowers, the object of his first work published in 1885. But, he adds, “I was not indifferent to it.” He watched his grandmother, “a real blue cordon” who spoilt the family and kept his recipes, using them throughout his career.
Escoffier put his first experiences in the kitchen in 1856, when he was 10 years old. He secretly made coffee (rare at the time). When he recounted his experience, he was scolded, but his grandmother kissed him and whispered, , “You’ll make a good cook.” He was also going to keep his grandfather’s house, to keep the flame going, and had toasts made which he covered with a strong cheese called bush. He savoured them “religiously,” with half a glass of sweet wine. From his school years at Villeneuve-Loubet, one knows nothing but one can easily imagine that he was a studious student.
APPRENTICESHIP IN NICE
I was then 13 years old, he just made his first communion. In October 1859, forced and constrained “I was told I had to be a cook … I had to comply“, he started as an apprentice with his uncle François, the cook who had founded in Nice three years before The “French Restaurant”, located first on rue Paradis, then 7 Quai Masséna. He had a hard time but realized very quickly the importance of cooking and vowed to work and get out of the domestic rut the cooks were in. His goal: to become Chef de Cuisine.
At the end of six months of apprenticeship, he thinks about the composition of the menus, seeks suggestive words to formulate the dishes.
His uncle had bought ten flat English metal dishes with a lid in an auction sale. Auguste finds them very practical and says that when he would open his restaurant, he would adopt this type of plate. He did so in 1898, 38 years later, when he started the kitchens of the Ritz in Paris, making these dishes by Christofle, with some modifications. They will keep the name “Escoffier plates“.
When the Russian Squadron stopped at Villefranche-sur-Mer and the officers set up their headquarters at the French Restaurant (very popular with the Russian colony in Nice), Auguste had the opportunity to work with the Russian cook who accompanied them. He takes notes after notes: they will help him later.
During his three years of apprenticeship, where his uncle spared him nothing, he was also initiated into all the tasks of a restaurant: choice and purchase of products, service and so on.
Tireless, he takes advantage of his rare free time to help a neighbor, a great confectioner and pastry chef. He also learns the art of candying fruits.
“SEASONS” IN NICE
It was then the seasons of winter and summer (6 months each), that ruled the hiring’s of the chefs.
In November 1863, his apprenticeship ended. He then went to the Cercle Massena as “first assistant”. For the summer season, he joined the restaurant of the Frères Provençaux as chef de cuisine in April 1864. He then moved on to the Hotel Bellevue for the winter season.
There, a chance meeting with Mr. Bardoux, owner of a famous restaurant in Paris, Le Petit Moulin Rouge who was staying at the Bellevue, with his sick daughter led to his hiring for the famous establishment.
Mr. Bardoux took a liking to the young cook whose only desire was to go to Paris.
LE PETIT MOULIN ROUGE
It was, as Escoffier modestly named it in his “Unpublished Souvenirs“, a “worldly cabaret“, located 19, rue d’Antin (now avenue Franklin Roosevelt): a large garden where guests entered a horse-drawn carriage the restaurant, a three-storey building. Two large rooms on the ground floor, two large salons on the first floor and thirty small salons on the third floor. On the other side, an entrance to 3, rue Jean Goujon where you could be discreetly dropped.
The champagne was flowing and the food was excellent. This establishment was suitable for “those who like the table and those who like to eat“, according to an article published in 1856.
IN THE FURNACE OF THE PETIT MOULIN ROUGE
This is where on 17 April 1865 (Easter Monday) , Auguste Escoffier arrives as a kitchen assistant under the leadership of the Chef, Ulysse Rohaut. Brutality, rudeness and alcohol were virtually the rule among chefs, and at the Petit Moulin Rouge it was no different.
Auguste was of small size, which puts him at a disadvantage where the kitchen of that time was hell hot thanks to the furnaces that were fed with coal and wood. To compensate for his short stature he wore heel pads. That still did not help to keep his head away from this intense heat and above all escape the prevailing violence.
However, he still did bear any grudge against Ulysse Rohaut who will help him later before becoming an alcoholic wreck in London while Escoffier is at the Savoy.
But in the first few weeks at the Petit Moulin Rouge, he quickly realized that what nature had denied him, he had to compensate for it by his intelligence.
He was then 19 years old. For a year, he performed all the different functions in the kitchen. In September 1866, he was appointed as head rotisseur when he had to leave for Villefranche-sur-Mer to complete his military classes for five months.
THE SWEET YEARS AT THE PETIT MOULIN ROUGE
On May 1st, 1867, he returned to Paris where since April 1st is held the Universal Exhibition.
It connects the “seasons” in this house: Pantry Chef then sauce party chef, with an escapade in 1869 as Head Chef at the Count of North, natural son of the King of England, Georges IV, a lover of good food.
MENUS OF THE PETIT MOULIN ROUGE
In his “Unpublished Souvenirs“, Escoffier dedicates several pages to his years at the Petit Moulin Rouge, to the atmosphere that prevailed there and “to the discretion observed with regard to the visitors”.
The highest French and foreign personalities succeeded one another in this restaurant, very popular during the Second Empire. Escoffier quotes among others the Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) whom he will later meet in London, Gambetta, Emir Abd-el-Kader, Count of Paris, Prince de R … “who came every Wednesday with A young and very pretty person “(we shall know no more!), The” most gracious mundane of the time “. It also brings some menus and recipes. Dinner offered by the Count of Lagrange to celebrate the Winner of his “Gladiator” horse at the Grand Prix of Paris in 1865.
accompagné de vin de Frontignan
Consommé Gladiateur au suc de tomates
Paillettes au fromage
Truite saumonée au coulis d’écrevisses
Pommes noisette au beurre fondu
Selle d’agneau de Behague, sauce Soubise
Flageolets nouveaux aux fines herbes
Caneton de Rouen bigarade
Coeurs de laitue à l’orange
Pêches Impératrice Eugénie
Délices au caramel
Café mode orientale
Grande Fine Champagne
Vins : Stamberger
Château Lafite 1846
Veuve Clicquot cuvée spéciale
Diner served in a private salon to Cora Pearl,
Famous mondaine lady named ” la grande horizontale ” (The tall horizontal) and the the young Count D. de Bouillon.
Melon Cantaloup – Fine Champagne
Un léger velouté de poulet au paprika rose
Petites langoustes à l’américaine
Riz au beurre
Noisettes d’agneau Cora
Petits pois à l’anglaise
Cœurs de Romaine aux Pommes d’Amour
Asperges en branches
Coupes aux fraises
Fin moka – Liqueurs
Château Lafite 1848
Moët et Chandon
The noisettes d’agneau Cora don’t appear in the Guide Culinaire. It was to cut the hazelnuts in a rack of lamb; salt them lightly; sauté them in butter. Arrange them in fresh cooked artichoke hearts. Garnish with slices of truffle and kidneys roasted in butter.
Auguste is almost 24 years old, he is Chef Saucier at Le Petit Moulin Rouge when on 19th July 1870 France declared war on Prussia. Escoffier a reservist was asked to report for duty.
The Ministry of War requested the Société des Cuisiniers de Paris to provide a dozen workers for the General Staff of the General Headquarters of the Army of the Rhine soon after the break of diplomatic relations. Staff was needed. He was immediately recruited by Colonel d’Andlau as Head of the 2nd Section of the General Staff, with his friend Bouniol as a helper.
On July 25, 1870, Escoffier left for Metz, where Napoleon III went on the 28th to head the armed forces. He encamped in Metz, on the Place de la Prefecture until August 14, living the life of a trooper and preparing food for his comrades.
On 14th of August, he officially took up his duties as Chef. Later he recounted these months of war in his “Memoirs of a soldier of the Army of the Rhine”, which were serialized in 1894 and 1895 in the magazine L’Art culinaire.
CUISINE DURING THE WAR
On 14th August 1870, Ordered arrived to leave immediately for Moulin-les-Metz. Escoffier barely has time to get a “huge roast beef and some preserves” that he stores in the van of his section, of which he is the only one to have the key.
It will take 8 hours to make the 5 kms separating Metz from Moulin as the roads are so crowded. Arriving late at night, he could not sleep as it was scorchingly hot.
He is tormented by the roast beef primer and discusses it with Bourniol. He decides to roast it immediately, and makes a skewer with pegs torn from a hedge. The aroma attracts the soldiers: Escoffier and Bourniol must then keep the soldiers at bay with swords in hand!
Menu, August 15, 1870
On August 15, at 7 am, he was ordered to serve a comfortable lunch for the officers at 9 o’clock. On the menu:
Sardines à l’huile – Saucisson
Œufs à la coque
Le roastbeef cuit à point
Salade de pommes de terre
Café et Fine Champagne
Eggs came from a neighboring farm.
The 2nd Section then leaves Moulin for Gravelotte. He sets up his kitchen there and sends Bouniol to seek fuel and especially water, which has become rare. The latter managed to convince a peasant to let him draw from his well, the only one that had not run dry yet. Escoffier had the foresight of bringing a small filter. It is very useful to make use of the few liters of muddy water that were scooped. He then writes his menu:
Thon – Sardines – Saucisson
Soupe à l’oignon
Pommes de terre frites à la graisse de porc
Fromage – Café
Escoffier blew this “Rabbit Gravelotte “Found on a farm with lard, added six large onions finely chopped, salt and pepper, sprinkled it with a glass of cognac and another of white wine. “Twenty minutes later,” he recounts in his Souvenirs, the “sautéed rabbit” that could be called “à la Soubise” as the pureed onion was the main condiment, was ready to serve “To the delight of the officers who enjoyed it.
16 and 17 August 1970: the menus before the battle of Gravelotte
It is a beautiful day. Escoffier serves lunch for the officers:
Les reliefs de mon roastbeef de la veille
Pommes de terre frites
Fromage et Café à la turque
As soon as the coffee was served, the first cannons thunder. The officers take up their posts. The battle of Gravelotte had started and would last until ten o’clock in the evening. In his Souvenirs inédits , Escoffier recounts the event, mentioning in passing the shameful behavior of some soldiers who went to hunt some frightened hares who have been dislodged from their den.
The battle of Gravelotte won, the officers went back to their quarters. Escoffier hastened to serve them supper. But it is necessary to fall back on Metz right away. The next day, he composes a menu that he describes as “comfortable”:
Œufs à la poêle
Blanquette de veau
Côtelette de mouton et Pommes frites
Café – Liqueurs
In Metz: Escoffier stocked up on food:
The 2nd Section is lodged in the property of M. Beaubourg who puts his kitchen at the disposal of Escoffier. No one for a moment foresees that the German army can encircle Metz. We do not think of storing food there.
On the contrary, the soldiers are left to devastate the gardens, to plunder the farms. As soon as he arrived in Metz, Escoffier planned to set up a farm in a backyard at the bottom of the garden: fifty hens and chickens, geese, ducks, six rabbits, two little pigs, a sheep and a goat. He stores four jars of Mirabelle jams from Metz, twenty kilos of salt and all sorts of preserves of sardines, tuna and Liebig. As long as he can, he continues to buy food from the markets of the city without touching his precious supplies. He bought new pigs which he transformed into “Pâtés from the siege of Metz”.
September 1870: rationing
On September 8th, horses are slaughtered and leftover beef is reserved for the sick.
On September 13, the ration of bread is reduced from 750 to 500 g.
On 15 September Escoffier began to draw from his food stock. From now on he cooks only horse meat in every possible way, whitens and refreshes the meat to remove its acrid taste. He accompanies it with various vegetable garnishes. His dinner menus consist always of “a fat or lean soup, a raising and a roast from the hosts of his farmyard, followed by a salad, a dessert of fruit, coffee and cognac “.
The lunches were, he says, “always composed of the dinner leftovers of the day before, and certainly I then rose to heights unknown in the art of accommodating the remains (…) combining superb gratins with the parcels detached from the Carcasses to which I added macaroni cut into fragments, tying the whole with a few spoonful’s of béchamel. (…) As fresh vegetables, I only had turnips “. He then invented more than one hundred recipes.
Escoffier preciously kept his chickens, who regularly give him eggs which he serves as a hull, poached on a bed of chicory, and often on minced horse meat with tarragon sauce.
October 1870: the end of the supplies and the capitulation of Metz
His goat gives him a half-liter of milk each day. Diluting it with water, he then transforms it into béchamel.
He also uses this milk for soups with sorrel and for cooking the rice, base of his main entremets throughout the siege of Metz. When he no longer has sugar, he then uses his supply of preserve of mirabelles and invents Riz à la Lorraine , timbale where he alternates the layers of rice with goat cheese and mirabelle jam, ending with a layer of apple jam or pears sprinkled with a little crushed military cookie as a substitute for breadcrumbs. On October 20, he sacrificed the last little pig. He transforms it into sausages, puddings and stir-fries, roasts the fillets and serves them with lentil filling, cooks a pilaw with chops, makes a succulent terrine with the head, all the offal and trimmings “religiously set aside.”
October 28 is the capitulation. Escoffier is left with only a chicken, a pot of Liebig, a box of tuna, and a goat which he sells. Three days later, he takes leave of its hosts and joined the station in Metz where he is shipped off to Germany as a prisoner of war.
PRISONER AND COOK OF MAC-MAHON STAFF
Escoffier left by train to Mayence with his faithful Bouniol , where he is to meet Colonel d’Andlau; he has been appointed to serve him. He found out on arrival that the colonel was sent to Hamburg.
For twenty-seven days he experiences the miserable daily life of the other prisoners, while seeking work. Bouniol is hired by a pastry shop. He wrote to MM Yung and Traut, the directors of the Kursaal of Wiesbaden, and one day was pleasantly surprised to receive a positive response.
He joined the establishment, whose head was a Frenchman, Mr. Desjardins. Ten days later, Marshal MacMahon and his staff arrived in Wiesbaden. Mac-Mahon had his own Chef, but one was needed for the General Staff. Escoffier is appointed. He brings Bouniol back
Food was plentiful. He could have done “fine cuisine,” he said. But given the circumstances, the officers wanted a “plain ordinary bourgeois“.
For lunches, its menus consist of a dish of eggs or fish, another dish of meat, vegetables, a side dish or a dessert.
As for dinners, it is a soup, any fish available, a large piece of roast beef or mutton, a salad, vegetables, a side dish or a dessert.
Peace accord is signed. He was released on March 14, 1871, and returned to Paris, where he arrived on the 16th, just before the insurrection of the Commune (March 21 – May 28).
COOKING CHEF IN THE ARMY
To avoid being stuck in Paris Escoffier left for Versailles on April 6th, 1871 where he was appointed chef in the kitchens of Marshal MacMahon. He stayed there until August 14th when he reopened Le Petit Moulin Rouge while on leave from the army.
On the 15th he was embedded in the 17th Provisional Regiment under the command of General Comte de Waldner which occupied the Bank and the Louvre in Paris. He becomes the General’s Chef.
In spring, the regiment leaves Paris for Ville d’Avray. Escoffier is in the countryside, he has time. Encouraged by Count and Countess Waldner he devotes his leisure hours to the art of creating wax flowers. These wax flowers will later be the subject of his first work, published in 1885. But after fourteen months, this easy life weighs on him. In November 1872, the Colonel granted him six months’ leave.
AU PETIT MOULIN ROUGE : ALL OUT CREATIONS
In November 1872, Escoffier returned for a few days to Villeneuve-Loubet. He immediately became Chef at the Hotel Luxembourg in Nice for the winter season 72-73.
Prosperity returns to Paris much faster than anyone would have imagined. The rich foreigners find their way back to the capital. For many, it’s about making money: business is booming.
In the spring of 1873, Escoffier took control of Le Petit Moulin Rouge as Chef. He is not yet 27 years old.
The restaurant is enjoying a growing popularity. For five years, Escoffier catered to the French and foreign dignitaries, including the Duke of Morny (popular figure of the Parisian life, always on the lookout for female conquests) and Gambetta. Prince Galitzine (whom he will later meet at the Carlton in London), the Prince of Wales, Sarah Bernhardt and MacMahon, who became President of the Republic (May 24th, 1873).
He creates many dishes:
Mousselines d’éperlan aux crevettes roses, Soufflés de merlan à la Pompadour, Queues de petites langoustes à l’indienne, Cailles Lavallière, Suprêmes de poulet Georges Sand, Petit poulet de printemps Elisabeth la belle bouquetière, Suprêmes d’écrevisses à la Vauclusienne, Timbales aux béatilles de Monseigneur, Soufflés Montmorency, coupe d’Antigny those which he lists in his Souvenirs.
In 1874 – 1875, Escoffier comes up with the crushed tomato idea. The custom was then to put tomato puree in champagne bottles that were sterilized. This puree was only used for sauces. He realizes that one can do better and decides to place peeled tomatoes in a can, conducts some tests that he finds conclusive. But he could not find a manufacturer: no one believes in this product. He will eventually find one when he is at the Savoy.
LE FAISAN DORÉ
In 1876, he was just 30 years old.
He buys a food store in Cannes, “Le Faisan Dore’”. Without leaving “le Petit Moulin Rouge”, he added a restaurant to it. It will be open only during the winter season.
In May 1878, he discovered Normandy, Normandy which he will talk about at length, later, in the “Carnets d’Epicure”.
On August 15th, 1878 he left his old “Moulin Rouge”.
On August 28th, he married Delphine Daffis, the daughter of a known publisher.
From the very beginning of September, they head to Cannes for the reopening of “Le Faisan Dore’”. But his father-in-law died brutally two months later, followed by his mother-in-law and his young sisters-in-law, victims of diphtheria.
These misfortunes encouraged him to sell “Le Faisan Dore’” in 1879.
DIRECTOR OF THE MAISON CHEVET, PARIS
On Maison Chevet, Joseph Favre wrote in his “ Dictionnaire Universel de la Cuisine” (published in 1895): “Under all the regimes that have successively taken over in France, monarchies, revolution, empires and republics, the name of Chevet is present in all dinners of diplomatic corps, ministerial and public festivities. The house Chevet, the Palais-Royal ” owes its foundation to the revolution”
World famous, having almost the monopoly of many products, suppliers to the biggest for decades, Maison Chevet needs a Director. It calls Escoffier late 1878.
He acquired the experience of organizing large meals throughout France and abroad. His cuisine was popular with women, who then went to the restaurant and called on Chevet for their receptions.
In 1882, he took part in the culinary exhibition organized by the “Société des Cuisiniers Français”, held at the Skating-Theater, rue Blanche, in Paris. He exhibited his wax flowers.
A few months later, he joined Phileas Gilbert, to start the magazine ”l’Art Culinaire” within the framework of the “Société des Cuisiniers Français”
It is headed by Maurice Dancourt. Escoffier will contribute for many years.
He was 38 when, in early 1884, he left Maison Chevet. He had paid his dues.
He is hired by the owners of the restaurant “l’Opéra” in Paris for the summer season and to open the new restaurant of the Casino de Boulogne-sur-Mer. For the sumptuous opening banquet, he is at the journalists’ table.
The summer season ended, he entered the upscale Restaurant “Maire “ in Paris, where we used, among other things, the famous “Pommes Maire”.
THE GRAND HOTEL IN MONTE-CARLO, MEETING WITH CÉSAR RITZ
The Riviera attracted in winter an increasingly sophisticated clientele. Queen Victoria came regularly to Menton.
The annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by Germany in 1871 prompted several large families to immigrate to the coast. They laid the foundation for a luxury hotel industry.
Charles III, Prince of Monaco, favoured tourism, creating in 1861 the famous Society of Sea Baths, building the Casino and the Hotel de Paris.
César Ritz with great success, had opened in 1877, the Grand National, in Lucerne belonging to Baron Pfyffer.
The Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo was a huge establishment owned by the Jungbluth. They had appealed to César Ritz to manage and modernize it. The latter, aware of the importance of cooking in such a hotel, had recruited Jean Giroix as Chef.
A stiff competition had started between the brand new Hotel de Paris and the Grand Hotel.
When in October 1884, Jean Giroix left the Grand Hotel to take charge of the kitchens of the Hotel de Paris, he then recommended Escoffier to Ritz. He asks him to come immediately and he complies.
It was a stroke of lightning between the two men because there was a convergence in their thinking and their ideas. “The sympathy that manifested itself between us,” writes Escoffier, “enabled us to work in a communion of ideas and thoughts. From that day until his death, which occurred during the war of 14, we remained inseparable friends. “
The respective genius of each laid the foundations that led to the development of the luxury hotel business.
The Grand Hotel and its restaurant quickly become the meeting place of the important people, dethroning the Hotel de Paris.
Over the course of these years – and with the development of high speed luxury trains – a clientele of princes, wealthy international industry magnates take up winter quarters on what was not yet the Côte d’Azur but the Riviera.
Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria, Empress Elizabeth, Francis, King of the Two Sicilies, Queen Victoria, Prince of Wales, Don Pedro, Emperor of Brazil, Grand Duke of Mecklemberg, the Great Dukes of Russia come to Monte Carlo. They compete against each other in luxury and magnificence.
The divas, the actresses are also there: Katinka, star of the dance, Adelina Patti, singer, Sarah Bernhardt, Réjane, Rachel … and all that one would call stars today.
Escoffier continues to innovate and refine his cuisine. He modifies the presentations, eliminates the architectural cuisine, he makes it easy. His main concern: the comfort of the customer.
The dishes are refined. The square dishes in silver metal, with raised edges, are introduced: they improve the heat retention of the food. Ritz enthusiastically supports the revolutionary initiatives of his leader. He tastes each new dish. Escoffier works nonstop. His reputation as a great chef keeps on growing.
He continues to create:
Timbale Grimaldi, Filets de sole Florentine, Mousse of whiting with oysters in the east, Poularde Monte-Carlo, Poularde Blanc, Poularde with Garibaldi ravioli, Chicken saute Florentine, Suprèmes partridge Marquise, Quails Richelieu , Kalinka whiting mousse, Walewska sole fillets, Carmen quail, Adelina Patti chicken, Sainte-Alliance parfait, Mireille strawberries, Sarah Bernhardt strawberries …
In these dishes, many are dedicated to women, all famous, who are his fans because he admires and spoils them.
THE BEAUTIFUL SUMMER SEASON AT THE LUCERNE NATIONAL HOTEL
At the time, people were fleeing the heat of the Riviera and heading uphill where it was cooler.
Escoffier, of course, follows Caesar Ritz at the Lucerne National Hotel, which he has been managing since 1877.
“All the novelties created at Monte Carlo,” wrote Escoffier, “were related to the season and replicated at the National Hotel in Lucerne, whose clientele varied little from that of Monte Carlo.”
In his Memoirs, he recalls Prince Fouad of Egypt, the Count of Fontalva, Minister of Portugal, Prince George of Prussia, and the Maharajah of Baroda who stayed there for a month, accompanied by a suite of 45 people including an Indian chef and some Indian women “whose only mission was to prepare the curry paste every morning”. At the Princess, Escoffier served small fish from the lake simply fried in olive oil.
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE QUICK REFERENCE CARD
In 1885, Escoffier published his first book “Les fleurs en cire”, which he had begun to develop when he was MacMahon’s chef in Ville d’Avray.
In Monte Carlo, he meets Urbain Dubois, chef of the imperial kitchens at the German Court. Escoffier tells him of his desire to write a book intended for cooks, but more specifically for butlers of a hotel where, an abstract of most of his recipes would be found. Urbain Dubois, who had already published several books, strongly encourages him to do so. But Escoffier decides not to take the plunge. He collects the documentation.
AT THE SAVOY IN LONDON AND… ELSEWHERE
Built in 1888, inaugurated in 1889, the Savoy was owned by a great Irish businessman, Richard d’Oily Carte.
In 1888, he had met César Ritz in Baden-Baden and had proposed the future direction of this sumptuous hotel (it was the first to have electricity and lifts) that he was building. Ritz had refused.
The inauguration of the Savoy was met with great success. But six months later, things start to fall apart as it is badly managed. D’Oily Carte went back to Ritz, who agrees to put the hotel back on its feet. He goes with Escoffier, of course.
The first Sunday of April 1890 (the 6th), they enter this sumptuous hotel, accompanied by Louis Echenard, a long-time friend at the Midland Hotel in London.
This trio was soon to lead the Savoy to success. When he gets there, Escoffier finds magnificent kitchens, spacious but deserted and completely empty. The personnel, dismissed the day before, had ransacked the place. Fortunately, his friend, Louis Peyre, head of Charring Cross, helps him out and allows him to ensure a limited service immediately (there were fortunately only fifteen customers).The next day, his staff having joined him, everything went back to normal. The magical trio Ritz, Escoffier, Echenard is working on the reorganization of the Savoy.
Success will soon follow.
FIXED PRICE MENUS
As at the Grand Hotel, menus were written in French (French was always de rigueur in Escoffier’s kitchens). The English could not understand anything and they instructed the butler to set up their menu.
Inspired by the experience at Monte-Carlo, Escoffier and Ritz decided to create fixed-price menus “that did not differ from the à la carte service”.
“The butler took the name of the person, writes Escoffier in his Memoirs, recorded it on a loose sheet of a notebook, mentioned the number of covers, the time of dinner and forwarded the order immediately to me; I then created the menu according to my own idea. The duplicate of this menu was kept in a special book so that when the same person came back to order a similar dinner, I only had to open my book and change the dishes that had been served previously.
The freedom I enjoyed allowed me to be very creative in the kitchen that resulted in many new dishes.”
The fixed price menu was a runaway success. The members of the high society flooded the Savoy; women particularly like to come because Ritz has introduced soft lighting “good looks” in the huge restaurant room to make them look good.”
DISHES FOR THE ELITE
On June 25, 1895, Escoffier was faced with organizing the wedding of the Duke of Aosta with the Princess of Orleans (37 princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses at one table, the suites to another with a different menu), and at a banquet of 50 seats chaired by the Prince of Wales. The two princes are not really friends. Ritz transforms the entire basement of the Savoy into a magical palace and hosts the wedding.
As for Escoffier, he handles three different menus without any problem.
Artists and intellectuals also stay at the Savoy: Sarah Bernhardt, become a friend, the actor Constant Coquelin, Boni de Castellane, Elisabeth de Gramont, the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan, Jean Richepin, Yvette Guibert, Emile Zola (with whom he has long conversations about the Provençal cuisine), Gaston Calmette for whom he creates dishes that will be found later in the “Guide Culinaire”.
Escoffier created this dish on a Sunday in June 1896 in tribute to the sinking of the Jeannette, an American expedition ship to the North Pole, trapped in ice in1881. He made them serve it in a dish encrusted in ice, that reminded everyone the state the ship was in.
Thanks to the debris of this ship, found three years later thousands of kilometers away that the Arctic drift was discovered. And studied ever since.
THE “ NYMPHES A L’AURORE” RUSE
The English, as we know, had frogs in horror. They called the French frog eaters, ” mangeurs de grenouilles” . Escoffier promises to feed them to the English. He took advantage of a great evening organized by the Prince of Wales (who enjoyed frogs!) where many cold dishes, including a suite called “Cuisses de Nymphes à l’Aurore” were served, which he said “the charming and brilliant society did a great deal of honour. “
They were frog legs “immersed in a court-bouillon flavored with fragrant herbs, then cooled and coated in a hot-cold sauce with pink paprika”. The thighs were arranged in a square dish decorated with tarragon leaves. The whole thing was covered with a thin chicken jelly. The dishes were served encrusted in ice blocks to keep the freshness of the jelly. All this for 600 people.
The trick was revealed the next day by the journalist La Bouchère, in the newspaper “Truth”
PROMOTION OF FRENCH PRODUCTS
Escoffier cares about working with French products. He uses 4500 pounds of butter from Normandy and Brittany each month.
The English prefer green asparagus. He has them shipped from a producer from Lauris (in the Vaucluse). But soon the prices double. He goes to Mérindol, near Lauris to encourage producers to produce more.
Thanks to his many duck recipes, those of Rouen, unknown in London, are soon to be found among London poultry sellers.
He finally found the manufacturer he had been looking for 15 years for his crushed tomato, getting him to make and ship 2000 boxes to the Savoy. All his colleagues want them: the following year 60 000 kg will be manufactured and marketed everywhere.
NELLIE MELBA AND HER PEACH
The famous singer of the time, the Australian Nellie Melba, was a Savoy regular in 1892 and 1893. Escoffier, who loved opera, attended a performance of Lohengrin. The glitzy swan that appears in the first act, leading the knight, inspired him to create “La Pêche au Cygne” at a dinner she offered the next day to a few friends.
“Peaches on a bed of vanilla ice cream, in a silver terrine inlaid between the wings of a superb swan cut in a block of ice, then covered with a veil of spun sugar”. This is how he describes the first version of this dessert in his “Souvenirs Inédits”. He will complete it later on the day of the opening of the Carlton by adding, after many trials, raspberry purée. The famous “Peach Melba” was born. Escoffier will regret later that his recipe is abused.
THE GREAT HOTEL IN ROME
Visiting Italian diplomats in England meeting over lunches at the Savoy came up with the project of building a Grand Hotel in Rome.
It materialized in 1895. This Grand Hotel represents the latest in comfort and luxury: electricity everywhere, private bathroom in each of the suites. Management is provided by the trio Ritz, Escoffier, Echenard.
To avoid any friction, the kitchen crew is composed of French and Italian cooks (half, half), led by an assistant of Escoffier, Mr. Jaspard. All are trained at the Savoy.
It is of course a great success. The inauguration brings together 1,500 people in front of a gigantic buffet. A blackout slightly disrupts the reception: Candles were installed in a hurry. The seasons flew by quickly. Zola will come.
THE MONT-REVARD CHALET
The same trio also opened in 1895, the Chalet du Mont-Revard: “a pretty restaurant and some rooms” built on the occasion of the opening of the cogwheel railway line that connects Aix-les-Bains to the Mont Revard.
Escoffier takes multiple trips.
SUNDAYS OF GREEN GOLDERS AND TOAST MELBA
Every Sunday, César and Marie Ritz received their friends at their home in Golders Green. One day, Marie Ritz complains to Escoffier about the toasts accompanying the tea is never thin enough for her taste. Ritz and Escoffier discuss this serious issue. Caesar suggests “grilling slices the first time, then cut them in half and toast them again. ”
And they both get in the kitchen for a test and come back with thin golden and crispy slices. Then Escoffier proposes to name this new recipe “Toast Marie”. “But, wrote Madame Ritz in her book César Ritz Marie, seemed to me to be too mundane. “
Knowing that the “Melba who had just returned from America, was very sick and was resting at the Savoy” and had to follow a diet that included toasted bread, she proposed to call this toast “Toast Melba”. “and so it was, she added, “I was the first to enjoy the Melba toast because Mrs. Melba herself had to wait until the next day to taste it. “
CREATION OF RITZ DEVELOPMENT COMPANY
In 1897, Ritz creates with some friends, the company Ritz Development. Many projects are studied, not all of them will see the light of day.
The Ritz Development immediately buys the hotel already under construction at Carlton Terrace, London.
But Ritz had long dreamed of creating a model hotel in Paris, the epitome of elegance and comfort. And now a Place Vendôme building, the Hôtel de Gramont, is on sale. His associates are reluctant, so Ritz is looking for money elsewhere. After the refusal of many investors, he remembers Marnier Lapostolle, who was indebted to him since he had launched his Grand Marnier at the Savoy. He loaned him the necessary fund to take out an option on the building.
STARTING THE SAVOY
Still in 1897, the tension that had existed for some time between Ritz and certain directors of the Savoy Society, intensified.
Result: Ritz resigned publicly from his position of Director of the Savoy, not without first informing Escoffier and Echenard who immediately follow him in this decision. In March 1897, the management team leaves the Savoy. Ritz Development immediately took care of their salaries.
“Ritz was flooded with letters and telegrams. (…) The Prince of Wales says in public: “Where Ritz goes we shall follow” and he hastened to cancel a little fun party organized by him at the Savoy.” The magnificent, beautiful adventure of the Place Vendôme Ritz was about to begin.
The hotel was already under construction.
THE RITZ, PLACE VENDÔME IN PARIS
Ritz had entrusted the construction of his dream hotel to the Alsatian architect Charles Mewès (1858 -1914) who had already started the Carlton in London.
Marie Ritz, in her book César Ritz devotes a whole chapter to those fifteen intense months spent in the development of this old building in the Place Vendôme. Ritz wanted his hotel to be “the latest in elegance, the first modern hotel in Paris, hygienic, comfortable and beautiful”.
He will watch with his wife every detail, visiting palaces and museums, from Versailles to Carnavalet to find ideas about furniture, fabrics, linen to replicate, demanding the best of suppliers. Nothing escapes him. Thus, he sleeps one night on a mattress before ordering.
The restaurant chairs (covered with pink brocade) are delivered just a week before the inauguration. Baron Pfyffer, one of his friends and associates for a long time, finds them beautiful and comfortable but points out that these chairs do not encourage people to stay longer at the table. Ritz immediately returns them to the cabinetmaker and have them fitted with armrests.
On the morning of the inauguration, the tables arrive. Ritz sits down at one of them, realizes it is too high. He orders all the legs trimmed by 2 centimeters. They came back just in time to be elegantly dressed.
ESCOFFIER IN THE KITCHENS
Escoffier is working on organizing the kitchens and recruiting the staff. He remains faithful to traditions: wood and coal stoves because they are the ones that produce the best heat, copper utensils.
A journalist who is surprised that there is no gas, no electricity, no aluminium (the new American metal), he explains his choices, answering that all the kitchen is lit by electricity, that a gas stove supports a huge pot of constantly boiling water to keep food warm, and “aluminum and enamel are used in kitchens where there is a lack of manpower. As this is not the case with us, we are only aiming for a perfect kitchen “. He designed and got Christofle to make these famous square dishes he had dreamed of since his apprenticeship with his uncle at the Restaurant Français.
JUNE 5th, 1898: OPENING THE RITZ
All nobilities, French and foreign businessmen, artists, famous writers rush to the Ritz on this beautiful day.
The opening night is a success as only Ritz knew how to organize them. But in the weeks that followed, the Ritz remained an “experience” in Mrs. Ritz’s words. It rains on Paris, the beautiful gardens remain “empty and in a terrible state”. Yes, all the rooms are busy, the restaurant is full. But there are no parties. Parisian society is gloomy.
A great evening organized by Izzet-Bey, Egyptian pacha who becomes the darling of Paris, changes the situation. Success has been achieved. All the beautiful society begins to frequent the Ritz assiduously and it becomes a must.
Rumor has it that Ritz “compromises family life, the cordon bleu cooks of private homes enjoyed the pleasure of knitting now that their mistresses only entertain at the Ritz”. Boni de Castellane says he will dismiss his chef who cannot compete with Escoffier. Having tea at the Ritz becomes a very chic custom.
In short, the Ritz becomes the fashionable place of all high society. But Escoffier has already escaped to London preparing the opening of the Carlton. He is relaxed: he put René Gimon in place as Chef.
LE CARLTON HÔTEL A LONDRES
Le Carlton, situé près de Buckingham, était déjà en construction lorsque la Ritz Development l’avait acheté.
Le plus grand et le plus luxueux hôtel du monde, voila ce que Ritz avait décidé. Sept étages, six cents fenêtres, des coupoles, des colonnes corinthiennes, d’immenses appartements avec une salle de bains pour chaque chambre.
Des jardins n’y étaient pas prévus au départ : César Ritz, fort de l’expérience de ceux du Ritz à Paris, en fait ajouter et peu importe ce que cela coûte de bousculer la construction.
L’aménagement, la décoration sont assurés par Mewès, dans les styles anglais de différentes époques mais surtout dans celui 18ème siècle. Somptuosité de bon goût, éclairages étudiés, raffinement de chaque détail (il y a même des provisions d’épingles à cheveux dans les vestiaires des dames), confort parfait, fleurs à profusion, armée de personnel impeccable, le Carlton est le modèle mondial du luxe. César Ritz est vraiment “ le Roi de l’Hôtellerie “, selon Escoffier et bien d’autres.
Dès son ouverture, le 15 juillet 1899, le Carlton fut un” succès mondain et financier immédiat et inouï “ selon Mme Ritz. ” Il continua pendant de longues années crescendo “, précise-t-elle.
ESCOFFIER AU CARLTON
Depuis de nombreux mois, Escoffier a dirigé l’installation des cuisines, mis en place une brigade de 60 cuisiniers. Il faut servir ces fameux menus à la carte, assurer quotidiennement jusqu’à 500 couverts chaque jour, et plus les jours de réception.
Il organise la cuisine au cordeau, calculant le temps des gestes et la façon d’en gagner (il avait lu les publications de Taylor) de façon à ce qu’il y ait moins d’efforts et plus de temps de détente pour ses cuisiniers. Il leur impose le calme, le ” self-control “, il ne supporte pas les cris en cuisine. Afin de donner l’exemple, quand il sent sa colère monter, il quitte celle-ci en se grattant l’oreille.
Il exige de ses cuisiniers une tenue impeccable, non seulement en cuisine mais aussi à l’extérieur : il leur interdit de sortir en vêtements de travail, il veut qu’ils soient en costume et cravate, avec un chapeau.
Escoffier restera 20 ans au Carlton, ne cessant d’inventer de nouvelles recettes. Souvent pour quelqu’une des célébrités qui ne cessent de se succéder au Carlton.
” Mes vingt années passées dans cette maison furent consacrées à la recherche de nouveaux mets pour les plaisirs de la table, ce qui me permettait de pouvoir varier les ” menus ” et de satisfaire les amateurs de bonne chère toujours à la recherche de sensations gastronomiques “, écrit-il dans ses Souvenirs. Il habite sur place, il mène une vie de moine (Delphine, sa femme, est restée à Monaco, comme du temps du Savoy).
UNE JOURNÉE D’ESCOFFIER AU CARLTON
Paul Thalamas et Eugène Herbodeau ont décrit une journée type d’Escoffier dans leur livre Auguste Escoffier.
” 6 h 30. Dans son appartement au 5ème étage, Escoffier se lève. Dès le matin, il s’habille élégamment. Sa redingote de coupe Louis-Philippe est restée célèbre. Le dimanche seulement il revêtait sa veste et sa toque à cause de l’affluence de la clientèle et de l’importance du ” coup de feu “.
Dès 7 heures, Escoffier fait le tour des cuisines ; avec son sens aigu de l’observation, avec son intuition jamais en défaut, il veille à la bonne marche de la préparation du breakfast. Tout le monde travaille dans le calme et dans la gentillesse.
8 heures. Dans son petit bureau du 1er étage, Escoffier qui vient de contrôler le marché du matin, commence à établir les menus de la journée. Ce que le marché de Londres ne peut procurer vient des Halles de Paris.(…) De France viennent les poulardes, les foies gras, les agneaux, les primeurs et les fruits. De Londres viennent les soles, les turbotins, les truites saumonées et les saumons d’Ecosse. (…)
Dans son bureau lui est servi son breakfast.
Il retourne ensuite aux cuisines ; il surveille les arrivages, met en place tous ses ouvriers. Il se promène en goûtant les différentes préparations, réprimande l’ouvrier qui fume ou qui déroge à la règle qui interdit l’alcool.
11 heures. Il monte dans la salle du restaurant, bavarde avec le directeur de celui-ci et les différents maîtres d’hôtel. On lui donne les noms des clients qui sont attendus et il s’inquiète de leurs habitudes. (…)
A moins qu’il ne soit invité par quelque client de ses amis souhaitant sa compagnie (ce qui arrivait maintes fois), il déjeune avec le directeur du restaurant.
Sachant que son personnel lui est tout dévoué, confiant aussi dans sa perspicacité, il n’est jamais inquiet. Son repas terminé, il revient en cuisine. Il goûte, hume et surveille la présentation des plats. Pendant tout le repas, il fait la navette entre la salle du restaurant et les cuisines. (…)
15 h 30. Le service est terminé. Escoffier retourne dans son bureau : c’est là qu’il aime lire, écrire, réfléchir. Puis il se décide à sortir, il doit aller voir ses fournisseurs. Il y va a pied car il est un marcheur infatigable. Plusieurs de ceux qui l’ont connu se souviennent de sa démarche rapide et de sa silhouette menue. Ils se souviennent aussi de son itinéraire favori parcouru le plus souvent aux mêmes heures. Les policemen le reconnaissent souvent et se plaisent à arrêter la circulation pour lui permettre de traverser aisément la rue. (…)
18 heures. Escoffier fait un tour dans les cuisines. Les commandes sont plus nombreuses que le matin. On va servir sans interruption de 19 heures à 1 heure du matin. Il recommence d’établir les menus des tables retenues, avec la même minutie, le même soin.
21 heures. S’il n’a pas pris place à la table de quelque client illustre, nous le retrouvons seul à table devant un repas léger généralement composé d’un potage avec une pincée de riz et d’un fruit.
Puis il revient dans son bureau pour travailler à de nouveaux menus, à de nouvelles commandes, à de nouveaux articles pour les revues culinaires ou ses propres ouvrages.
Minuit. Il fait un dernier tour aux cuisines : il n’y a maintenant qu’une dizaine de cuisiniers. Le menu du souper est un menu type et il est rare que des commandes spéciales soient passées. Escoffier veille avec un très grand soin à ce qu’il n’y ait pas de gaspillage. Il réserve souvent pour les pauvres les restes qui ne peuvent entrer dans la préparation du lendemain.
Sa journée terminée, il regagne son appartement au 5ème étage et s’endort.”
LE CARLTON : 20 ANNÉES D’UNE RICHESSE ÉBLOUISSANTE
Ces vingt années passées au Carlton seront riches de nouveaux plats, d’organisations de réceptions non seulement à Londres mais partout dans le monde, d’ouvertures avec Ritz, d’autres hôtels, de la collaboration avec l’Hambourg Amerika Airline, de la création de la revue Le Carnet d’Épicure, puis de celle de La Ligue des Gourmands et des Dîners d’Epicure, de la rédaction de nombreux articles pour l’Art Culinaire et de celle du Guide Culinaire.
QUATRIÈME ÉDITION DU GUIDE CULINAIRE
COLLABORATION AVEC MAGGI
Escoffier collabore avec la société Maggi. Lui, toujours soucieux de bien nourrir le plus grand nombre, ne pouvait qu’être intéressé par les produits de cette entreprise.
Julius Maggi, un grand minotier suisse avait mis au point, en 1883, la production industrielle de farines de légumineuses puis, en 1886, les premiers potages prêts à cuire, sous forme de rouleaux.
Ceci à la demande de la Société suisse d’utilité publique qui se préoccupait de la malnutrition qui régnait chez les ouvriers suisses et recommandait l’utilisation de légumineuses pour leur haute valeur nutritive.
La société Maggi avait ainsi pour but ” la fabrication et le commerce de produits alimentaires et populaires “.
Mais Julius Maggi se préoccupait aussi de la valeur gustative des produits. Il avait élaboré ” l’Arôme Maggi “, un condiment liquide, en 1887, pour assaisonner bouillons et potages cuisinés avec les farines de légumineuses.
Escoffier fait des essais avec cet arôme. ” J’ai délayé deux cuillerées de purée d’anchois avec une cuillerée d’arôme Maggi, et trois cuillerées de vinaigre et une cuillerée de vinaigre de chili. Je trouve ce mélange très agréable. L’arôme Maggi contient de l’extrait de viande et serait très apprécié pour compléter diverses sauces chaudes. Cet arôme est un peu salé mais il est facile de le mettre au point si on voulait en faire une sauce. “
Toujours précurseur, même à 75 ans, Escoffier inaugurait ainsi, bien avant d’autres, la collaboration entre un (très) grand chef et l’industrie agroalimentaire.
EXPOSITION CULINAIRE DE COPENHAGUE
Escoffier est invité à l’Exposition culinaire de Copenhague. Les souverains danois lui remettent à cette occasion la Croix de Danoborg, décernée pour la première fois à un ouvrier artisan. Il participe au dîner réalisé par un cuisinier français avec le ” Soufflé Princesse Renée ” qu’il élabore à cette occasion dans les teintes blanches et rouges symbolisant les couleurs danoises.
NOUVEAU SÉJOUR A NEW-YORK
Escoffier est Président du jury de l’Exposition culinaire de Grenoble à laquelle participent tous les hôtels et tous les restaurants de la ville et de la région. Il se félicite de la qualité des mets exposés.
Il retourne pour la troisième fois aux Etats-Unis, invité par la Cunard Line de Londres à bord du Berengaria. Il y retrouve ses marques et des souvenirs puisque ce paquebot était, avant, l’Imperator dont il avait organisé les cuisines en 1913.
A New-York, il séjourne à l’Hôtel Ambassador, chaleureusement accueilli par la brigade dans laquelle il retrouve certains de ses cuisiniers du Savoy et du Carlton. Au cours d’une réception au Carlton de New-York qui réunit diverses sociétés culinaires françaises et américaines, et beaucoup de jeunes cuisiniers, il encourage ceux-ci à maintenir le haut niveau de la cuisine, à être un ” cuisinier “et non un ” cook “. Le premier, leur dit-il est ” celui qui joint à l’habileté professionnelle une initiative personnelle et une grande pratique de son métier “. Le second est ” un homme qui trop souvent n’a comme seul outil… qu’un ouvre-boîte. “
OFFICIER DE LA LÉGION D’HONNEUR
Le 22 mars 1928, Escoffier est élevé au grade d’Officier de la Légion d’honneur (il en était Chevalier depuis 1919).
Il est le premier cuisinier à recevoir “ cette insigne distinction “. Mais, écrit-il, ” je savais que cet honneur rejaillissait aussi sur tout l’ensemble de notre profession. “
Cette décoration lui est remise au cours d’un grand banquet de 350 personnes, réunissant les plus hautes personnalités de l’hôtellerie, de la restauration et de la presse, présidé par Edouard Herriot, alors Ministre de l’Instruction publique et des Beaux-Arts et qui se déroule à l’Hôtel du Palais d’Orsay. ” Mon émotion et ma fierté étaient grandes… “, dit-il pudiquement.
EXPOSITION CULINAIRE A ZURICH ET VOYAGE AUX ÉTATS-UNIS
Escoffier se rend à l’Exposition culinaire internationale de Zurich. Et là, il a la surprise de découvrir que l’immense hall où se tenait cette exposition avait été nommé ” Boulevard Escoffier “.
A cette occasion, il visite une des usines Maggi, proche de Zurich. Il constate que la plupart des légumes, utilisés pour les fameuses soupes Maggi, sont cultivés dans d’immenses terrains autour de l’usine. Il se dit ” émerveillé par la rapidité de fabrication, dans la plus parfaite propreté. “
En octobre 1930, il embarque sur le paquebot Paris pour un nouveau voyage aux Etats-Unis. Il a été invité pour présider le dîner d’ouverture du nouveau palace, l’Hôtel Pierre. Tous ses amis et ses collègues l’attendent à la descente du Paris.
Il est invité chaque soir à un dîner donné en son honneur. Le 28 octobre, il y fête son 85ème anniversaire.
En pleine forme, ayant bien supporté toutes ces agapes, il quitte New-York et voyage jusqu’à Liverpool sur l’Aquitania. Il fait un saut à Londres, y retrouve des amis, puis regagne Paris.
Là, au cours d’un déjeuner organisé par la Société Mutuelle des Cuisiniers chez Lucas, Place de la Madeleine, il est très heureux de remettre un chèque de 10 000 Francs recueillis auprès de personnalités et organisations américaines pour l’école de cuisiniers. Il leur annonce aussi qu’il a négocié l’embauche de nouveaux cuisiniers français sur les paquebots anglais et américains.
PUBLICATION DE “MA CUISINE”
Escoffier publie Ma cuisine, livre de recettes destiné ” à la cuisine bourgeoise. ”
Delphine, la femme d’Escoffier meurt fin janvier 1935. Deux semaines plus tard, le 12 février, il s’en va à son tour. Il a 87 ans. Il est enterré dans son village natal, à Villeneuve-Loubet.