electronic Gourmet Guide


Chef Louis Szathmary

This is an excerpt from our weekly eGG-Roll newsletter (1996)

Subj: Chef Louis
Date: 96-10-06 00:54:21 EDT
From: Grayjackl@[email-address-removed]

Some sad news I thought I'd share with you. Chef Louis Szathmary, educator, best-selling cookbook author and one of the best chefs ever (and maker of a WONDERFUL beef Wellington), died Friday. He did a lot of things, but I knew him from The Bakery in Chicago, one of my all-time favorite places. He is one of the people who made me really appreciate fine food.

I didn't know Chef Louis well, but I interviewed him a couple times for cooking stories. And I got some of his recipes—even did a story on how to make a roast leg of lion, and have a great recipe for shore lunch fish fry that I still use often. I was a journalist when I met him—and when the Bakery closed. Now I am a cook.

Anyhow, this is the posting from this (Saturday) morning on Chefs on the Internet.

Louis (pronounced Louie) Szathmary died at 6:00 a.m., Friday, October 4. He was 78. His mind at 78 was as nimble and able to produce brilliant thoughts and ideas, that if you talked to him on the phone, you would have guessed he was still going to surprise us all with another amazing accomplishment. Louis had become a second father to me and I still can't believe he's gone.

He originally learned how to cook in the Hungarian army during WWII. His PhD was in psychology and he had his masters in literature, so he originally was recruited to write "how-to " booklets for the army. One of his early assignments was to write a how-to-booklet on setting up a field kitchen. That's how it started.

When he came to America, one of his earliest jobs in NYC was as the personal chef in the office for the chairman of RKO pictures. There he met some of the most influential and powerful men of the day.

One of them was the second or third generation family members who owned and operated Armour and Co.

Back then Armour and Co. was probably the largest meat supplier of fresh beef in the world. First as a consultant, then as manager of new product development, Louis was the culinary force behind the giant company. Among other things through that period, he developed the first six "flash-frozen " meals for Stouffers. Remember, at that time, except for government and military, the technology of instant freezing was new. Louis was one of the first, if not THE first research chefs, to work on mass-produced food for a hungry world. As Louis put it later, "You couldn't call it REsearch but only search, because everything was new, there wasn't any "re ".

In an amazing career which went on to Phase III when he opened the Bakery Restaurant in Chicago in the mid 60s, Louis' ability to juggle many projects at one time is hard to imagine. In his life he wrote 7 cookbooks, one which stayed on the NY Best Seller list for years, The Chefs Secret Cookbook. He also edited a 13 volume massive collection on American Cookery.

While working and writing he was always collecting books and culinary artifacts which grew to 400,000 items and now is the Culinary Archives and Museum at Johnson & Wales University.

Another little tidbit of import is the story of how Louis led the charge of the ACF to get the government to reclassify chefs from the domestic category to professional in the Encyclopedia of Occupational Titles. This underwritten by L.J. Minor and Co. Louis actually convinced everyone how important this was at the National Convention of the ACF in the early 70s. He had tried to get a loan (years before) and the bank explained that they didn't loan to domestics.

Johnson & Wales named Louis: Chef Laureate. I hope the jersey and title will be retired now.

And from Prof. Steve Holzinger:

A sad day indeed.

Please let me add the following from the Press Release of the ACF regarding Chef Szathmary's induction into the ACF Hall of Fame:

The American Academy of Chefs, 25th Silver Anniversary, July 13th

The Culinary Hall of Fame was established in 1988 to honor Academy members whose dedication is

particularly noteworthy and has had special impact on the profession.

Culinary Hall of Fame recipient Dr. Szathmary, who (was) a retired chef-owner is probably best known for amassing and building the culinary archives at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., where he (was) an honorary chef laureate. A native Hungarian, Szathmary earned a Ph.D in Psychology from the University of Budapest but became interested in cooking while serving as a psychologist in the Hungarian Army.

Szathmary came to the United States in 1951, and joined the American Culinary Federation in 1952. In addition to being a culinary scholar, teacher, chef and author, Szathmary also has been a journalist, an actor, a marriage counselor and a lecturer.

His leadership and vision has had a direct impact on the industry. Szathmary was instrumental in elevating the status of executive chef from service status to the professional category in the U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of Official Titles in 1976. He was honored for his contribution with a plaque at ACF headquarters in St. Augustine, Fla.,in 1988.

1996 Hall of Fame Chef Louis Szathmary AAC Taken to Gods Banquet Table

This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.


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