Biography of Famous Chefs and Marc-Antoine Careme Part 1

About the famous French chef Marc-Antoine Careme, his history and biography, information about his cuisine and reciples.

MARC-ANTOINE CAREME (1784-1833)

Marc-Antoine Careme, "the king of cooks and the cook of Kings," as he has been called, was born in Paris, in his own words one of 25 children "of one of the poorest families in France." Some authorities claim he was a lineal descendant of a celebrated chef of Pope Leo X's; this ancestor, it is said, invented a delicious Lenten soup and the Pontiff honored him with the name Jean de Careme (Lent), which was adopted by the family. In any event, Careme worked from the time he was 7 as a kitchen scullion. Finally, accepted as an apprentice chef in his late teens, he studied under many masters--including Boucher, Laguipiere, Robert, Richaut, Bardet, Lasne, Savart, Riquert, and Robillard--until he made the subtle synthesis that marked the end of Old Regime cooking and the founding of La Grande Cuisine Francaise, classic French cooking as we still know it today.

Careme's creations reflected his considerable artistic abilities, his pastries often looking more like sculpture than the delicious desserts they were, and his supreme taste and meticulous standards--illustrated in his many books--as well as his 48-course dinners, made the French cuisine sovereign throughout Europe. Among other notables, he cooked for Talleyrand; Czar Alexander I; the future George IV of England; Lord Castlereagh; Baron Rothschild, the world's richest man; and France's Louis XIII, who granted him the right to call himself "Careme of Paris." Yet his motto was "One master: Talleyrand. One mistress: Cooking." He was always faithful to his 1st benefactor and as a result is the one noted chef in history who was also a spy, relaying information he overheard at important dinner tables all over Europe to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. He believed that a trencherman could only be happy living in France, but as a spy in the uniform of a master chef he sent home secret information from the St. Petersburg court, the dining rooms of the Emperor of Austria, and the House of Rothschild, among the many places which piqued the curiosity of Monsieur de Talleyrand.

Careme's culinary triumphs were far more important than his diplomatic ones, though. In his travels, he discovered and introduced to France such delicacies as caviar and Paskha, a creamy cheesecake prominent in the Russian cuisine, which the French soon adopted as the now famous coeur a la creme. While in England, he created a lavish pastry which he called the Apple Charlotte, after that country's Princess Charlotte, and when serving Czar Alexander, still apparently unable to forget the princess, he invented a jellied custard set in a crown of ladyfingers that he named the Charlotte Russe in her honor--a pastry still made in bakeries today. Careme's triumphs also include many gargantuan feasts. At one military fete held outside in the Champs-Elysees, he prepared and served to 10,000 guests the foodstuffs required, including: 6 cows, 75 calves, 250 sheep, 8,000 turkeys, 2,000 plump chickens, 1,000 table fowls, 1,000 partridges, 500 hams, 1,000 carp, 1,000 pike, 18,000 bottles of Macon, and 145 casks of wine.

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