COOKING FOR KINGS: The Life of Antonin Carme, the First Celebrity Chef

Ian Kelly, Author . Walker $26 (301p) ISBN 978-0-8027-1436-7

Readers who enjoy being privy to the evocative details of a past era will devour this book, and foodies will have a field day with the engrossing story of a man who literally died for gastronomy. Carême (1783–1833) was born poor in Paris, and by his late 20s he was already Europe's most famous chef. He cooked for monarchs and noblemen, even baking Napoleon's wedding cake, and his fame dovetailed with the rising interest in gastronomy—what Kelly, a British actor who played a luncheon guest in Howard's End , calls "a cult in want of a priest." Luckily, Carême was also a prodigious author who recorded every major meal and became rich off his cookbooks. Kelly feasts on the wealth of source material; his fine book offers a recipe at the end of each chapter, plus more in an appendix. The scale of Carême's meals will astonish today's readers: he served literally hundreds or even thousands of elaborate dishes for throngs of guests. He'd cook for weeks on end without a break, and Kelly theorizes that he eventually died of "low-level carbon-monoxide poisoning after a lifetime of cooking over charcoal in confined spaces." Worse, this superchef was buried in an unmarked grave and no one attended his funeral (due to a cholera epidemic). But his work wasn't in vain—we can thank Carême for numerous culinary advances, including chef's toques, which he invented, and the course-by-course meal service we're accustomed to today. 18 color and 13 b&w illus. Agent, Ivan Mulcahy. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 292 pages - 978-1-904095-20-0
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-8027-7731-7
Paperback - 978-1-904095-93-4
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-8027-1932-4
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