Georges Auguste Escoffier

(1846—1935) master chef and writer on cookery

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Nellie Melba (1861—1931) singer


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French chef who set new standards in international cuisine. He was made a Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur in 1928, the first chef to be so honoured. Escoffier was born in the village of Villeneuve-Loubet on the Côte d'Azur, the son of a blacksmith. In 1859 he was apprenticed in his uncle's restaurant in Nice, where he learnt all the basic kitchen tasks and how to select and buy provisions. While on the staff of the Hotel Bellevue, Nice, he met the owner of the Paris restaurant Le Petit Moulin Rouge and was engaged as commis rôtisseur. His duties were interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 in which, as an army chef, his culinary expertise was turned to the preparation of horsemeat. Afterwards he returned to Le Petit Moulin Rouge, as head chef. By 1883, Escoffier's reputation was such that he was hired as chef by César Ritz, manager of the Grand Hotel, Monte Carlo. Thus started a lifelong partnership between the two men. The combination of Ritz and Escoffier attracted the rich and famous, both to the Grand and to the National, Lucerne, where Escoffier spent the summer season. Regular clients included Sarah Bernhardt and Richard D'Oyly Carte: the latter persuaded Ritz to manage his newly completed Savoy Hotel in London, and Escoffier was duly installed as head chef.

Escoffier surprised and delighted London society with a constant stream of culinary inventions, such as pêche melba – peaches on a bed of vanilla ice cream coated with raspberry purée – which he first served in honour of the opera singer Dame Nellie Melba. Ritz opened his own hotel in Paris in the 1890s and the Carlton in London in 1899. Escoffier remained there until his ‘retirement’ in 1919. Returning to Monte Carlo, he helped manage L'Hermitage hotel in his final years.

From Who's Who in the Twentieth Century in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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