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by Fred McMillin
A Fantastic Fusion
The most flamboyant chef of the 19th century was born on this date, June 8, back in 1784.
The most flamboyant English king of the 19th century hired him. Here's the story.
Prince Regent George Augustus Frederick, the future King George IV, was not his dad's favorite. A visit to the resort town of Brighton at age 21 wrecked their already-shaky relationship. The young prince was enchanted by the gambling, the dances, and other resort "frivolities." He moved in.
The Tunnel of Love
He built the most gaudy structure in England, the Royal Pavilion, (pictured). At age 23 he secretly married a woman who couldn't possibly ever be queen...Mrs. Fitzherbert was twice a widow and a Catholic and a commoner. She couldn't live in the Pavilion but had her own house nearby. In fact, in Brighton we were told there was a tunnel from the house to the Pavilion. Soon the Prince had debts of over a million dollars, partly because he hired...
Chef Antonin Careme
Careme prepared cuisine as flashy as the Royal Pavilion that housed it. Typical was the January 15, 1817 banquet with 116 dishes. If you visit the Pavilion, you can see the menu. The dishes are printed in French.
The First English Take-out Service?
The English had never seen cuisine on this level. Typical were this French chef's meat pies...of foie gras, truffles, pheasant, veal, etc. Their reputation was so great that residents of Brighton "paid immense prices" for those left over from the Prince Regent's table.
The menus we saw did not list the wines. However, other sources indicate one of the most popular was what we would expect...Champagne. Hence, tonight on Careme's 216th birthday, we toast that fantastic fusion with a California bubbly that scored well in my last tasting.
Wine of the Day
Handley Brut Rosé, Vintage 1996
Postscript—The Napoleon Connection
Careme was not only the greatest chef of his time, but also the greatest cookbook author. He gathered dishes from many, many sources. His recipe for rum-marinated banana fritters came from a chef who also had a well-known boss—Napoleon!
This page created June 2000