THE PEOPLE'S CHEF: The Culinary Revolutions of Alexis Soyer

Ruth Brandon, Author . Walker $25 (319p) ISBN 978-0-8027-1452-7

Brandon follows the extraordinary career of the first celebrity chef in England, providing an illuminating glimpse into 19th-century living; revealing the differences between French égalité , fraternité and liberté and English class-consciousness; and showing how Soyer maneuvered his way through the latter with the attitude of the former. The author of Singer and the Sewing Machine structures her book as a menu, beginning each chapter with her own often humorous attempt to realize one of Soyer's elaborate, archaic recipes. Born to a rural French working-class family in 1809 or 1810, Soyer went to Paris at age 11 to learn the chef's trade and soon emigrated to England. He lived his short life (he died at 48) to the fullest, building a reputation for theatricality and culinary genius writing cookbooks for the wealthy and the poor alike, designing soup kitchens for the Irish during the potato famine, creating the first restaurant "theme park" and traveling to Constantinople during the Crimean War to help the disheveled British Army pull itself together through better cooking and Soyer-designed camp stoves (which were so successful their design was still being used 140 years later in the first Gulf War). Drawing on a biography written by Soyer's secretaries and Soyer's own writings, Brandon engagingly depicts the flamboyant, self-made Soyer as a daring entrepreneur, brilliant inventor and compassionate philanthropist. Illus. Agent, Clare Alexander. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/07/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 322 pages - 978-0-470-86992-5
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-470-86991-8
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-8027-1818-1
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