This biography of Antonin Carême traces the pastry chef's ascent from an impoverished childhood to being the toast of Paris, and indeed, most of Europe.
Author Marie-Pierre Rey, a professor of history at the University of Paris, links Carême's rise to that of his hero, Napoleon Bonaparte, noting that like the eventual Emperor, the young Carême's was "released from anonymity by the sole force of his intelligence, his charisma and his courage."
Many books and articles have made the case that one chef or another was the "first celebrity chef." In Carême's case, the argument is most persuasive: his fashionable creations, in particular the elaborate showpieces known as pièces montées, set a style that was imitated for much of the 19th century and helped define haute cuisine.
Accessibly written, Le Premier des Chefs places Carême very clearly within the cultural, social, and political context of his times. It reproduces 100 recipes from his assorted cookbooks, but alas, like so many books to do so, very few of his drawings of his complex creations.
Paperback. Color inserts. In French. With endnotes and a bibliography.