A celebrity chef has both a book and a show coming out simultaneously this spring. Nothing new there—only this celebrity chef isn't shouting "Bam!" on the Food Network. In fact, he's not even alive.

In May, Walker & Co. will publish Ian Kelly's Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Carême, the First Celebrity Chef, and from May 17 through June 6, Kelly (who's an actor as well as a writer) will perform a one-man show about Carême at the 59E59 Street Theater in New York City as part of Brits Off Broadway 2004. Kelly will sign books in the theater lobby after each performance.

Never heard of Carême? He was an 18th-century French chef best known for his over-the-top presentation of exquisitely prepared dishes, including edible food sculptures like a stuffed boar's head with skewers of meat extending from it. Among his recipes in Cooking for Kings are Salmon à la Rothschild—made with four bottles of champagne and a pound of truffles—and an apple meringue in the shape of a hedgehog.

"Carême's technique was stunning, his aesthetic flawlessly romantic and his writing, while a bit turgid, revealed a passion about food that has seldom been met and never exceeded," explained culinary historian Cathy Kaufman, who teaches a class based on Carême's recipes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City.

Yet despite the great chef's influence, there was no English-language biography of him until Short Books published Cooking for Kings in the U.K. in October 2003. The Walker & Co. reprint retains the unique color plates of the British edition, while adding a new jacket and an index to the book, which includes numerous recipes.

Nach Waxman, owner of specialized bookstore Kitchen Arts and Letters in New York, has been selling the British version of Cooking for Kings, and was enthusiastic about the coming Walker & Co. edition. "The British book has sold very well, considering that we have to sell it for $44," said Waxman, who expected to order a dozen or so copies of the American edition. In the past, the store has also stocked a French Carême biography to meet demand for information on the seminal chef.

Online and catalogue cookbook seller Jessica's Biscuit ordered approximately 300 copies of Cooking for Kings and will feature it on the cover of its catalogue. Owner David Strymish's enthusiasm for Cooking for Kings is supported by sales of "thousands of copies" of Auguste Escoffier: Memories of My Life (Wiley, 1996), a memoir by the founder of the French school of cuisine. "Carême is very important, and there's never been anything on him before, so I hope we'll ultimately sell 600 or 700 copies," Strymish said.

Walker marketing director Maya Baran (who, as it happens, is the granddaughter of Angelo Pellegrini, a turn-of-the-century Italian immigrant who wrote a series of influential Italian cookbooks) has planned a bookseller and media "screening" of Kelly's play, followed by a tasting of some of Carême's favorite dishes. The New York Times, CBS Sunday Morning and NPR's All Things Considered have all committed to features on the play and the book.

Additionally, Daniel Boulud, chef/owner of top-tier Restaurant Daniel and two other French restaurants in New York, is considering offering a special Carême menu during the play's run. Baran hopes to find display space for Carême-like pastry centerpieces in bookstore windows.

But perhaps those eye-catching creations should come with a television-style "don't try this at home" warning. Waxman of Kitchen Arts and Letters admitted he'd be hard-pressed to re-create Carême's style. "His work had things like fountains with nests around them and birds in the nests. Even at our best, my wife and I don't entertain that way."