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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Horatio Alger had nothing on Henri Charpentier. In 1890, at the age of ten, this small orphan boy started out in the restaurant trade. As a mere page at one of the great hotels on the French Riviera, he learned how to flatter the famous and coax gold out of wealthy men's pockets. He spilled consommé when serving the famous Sarah Bernhardt yet earned her instant forgiveness. At the age of 14, he invented crêpes suzette by accidentally igniting one of the cordials in the dish he was making before the Prince of Wales.
This story of the man who might justly be called the first celebrity chef is brought back into print as part of the new Modern Library Food Series, with an introduction by Alice Waters. Charpentier's memoirs relate his many reversals of fortune, each one worthy of a Dickensian tale. He immigrated to America in 1906 to open renowned restaurants in New York and California, and over the course of his lifetime, he fed Queen Victoria, Marilyn Monroe, and Diamond Jim Brady.
Recipes are woven into the stories of restaurant life (many starting with "take a piece of sweet butter as big as the first joint of your thumb"), and there is also a brief section of recipes, along with "advice for a lady with a market basket" on how to pick the best peaches, chickens, coffee beans, and other foods. (Ginger Curwen)