Les Amis d'Escoffier Society Boston, LTD.

Dedicated to Auguste Escoffier the King of Chefs

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The Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics
JUNE—JULY, 1908— MAY, 1909


Boston Cooking School Magazine 1909

Monsieur Escoffier and the Clam
By Helen Campbell

It was the new kitchen of the nobody knows how many million dollars hotel to the christening of which, as it were, we had been invited, a "private view" of the white-tiled, spotless wonder, relieved by gleaming copper saucepans and all the paraphernalia requisite in the turning out of an eight or ten course dinner for a thousand if necessary, for thousands, even it might be, since electricity was the fuel, with its capacity measureless and its results infallible. The little group passed from one point to another, admiring and questioning the guide of the day, this time, as it happened, the chef himself, head of the
staff of minor chefs and their assistants in the enormous establishment. It was plain he was not quite familiar with the role of guide, but was doing his best for the group, who, as mere Americans, could have but limited comprehension of all the mysteries of the art he gloried in representing. Watching him it was quite plain that no general at the head of a conquering army could feel pride and confidence more assured than this composed and somewhat serious gentleman, who might even himself have been that general.

"Good heavens ! " one of the party said low, unconsciously catching the thought, "that man a cook! He might be a marshal of France. Look! Something is happening."
Something was happening, but its nature as yet was not definable; the face of our guide flushed with interest and his eyes sparkled with joy.

"Pardon, messieurs et madames," he said hastily, "a moment only;" and he hurried across the room bowing low before a short, round, excitable little man, declaiming as he went, and with extraordinarily bright, penetrating eyes which took in everything about him. He paused now in his discourse, blinked near-sightedly, then fell upon the neck of our guide and kissed him upon both cheeks, in true Gallic fashion.

" Tu, Franpais! Quel plaisir! Mais comment! Vous n'etes pas a Londrest "

"Mais non, non," came the reply, and then a torrent of words in which one caught the general sense that in America money pours like water for the thing the rich demand, more money than could be resisted, and thus Francois Lenormand, our guide, found himself precisely as now seen, etc., etc. Still flushed and smiling, he returned shortly to his charge, and the party, which also held his friend, passed

"Look well," the chef said, "look well, for you behold a famous man. All Europe knows him. It is Monsieur Escoffier. He is here but a week that America may also know him, the world's greatest chef. And yes, America that travels must also know, for it is twenty years that he is the head of the cuisine for the whole Ritz-Carlton System of hotels. So, too, is he head of the firm of Escoffier Limited, its headquarters ever in London. Who does not know the Escoffier sauces and confitures and what you call relishes, that go to all the world? for all the world buys them if it can, and will have no other. And with all this he will ever invent new plats, even here, when thrown as it were from spot to spot, he must see, still here and but yesterday taking time to make a timbale quite new, with the name of his hosts. Why does he come? Because he must for himself see his own system of seagoing restaurants, which he devises and yet will not see till now, because he loves not the sea. It is to him malaise, but still he comes.

"See now! What you call the great liners all introduce them, but under what difficulties! A great chef shuns the sea. How shall sauces blend smoothly if at any moment malaise
intervene? So too with all compositions, chef d'oeuvres that require an attention concentrated as the sea will not permit. To persuade many chefs, many assistants, more waiters, dell What a labor! It is this he has done, and then the great Ritz-Carlton System, it arises; it say, `You are to go and see if all works as we would have it, and your famous name will require to have it.' For see again many waiters had deserted, because the seasickness require it. How shall a garcon who knows not the sea carry dishes as if he walked on rock, when all is as an avalanche and he may place the soup in the bosom of him who orders it, or on his head, it may be? So they dismiss themselves, and to replace them is difficile, ficile, bier difficile. f icile.

But he has done it, none but he. There are waiters trained to be steady, even if the ship stood on its end, and ranges that cook even the same, and all goes well." The chef paused and smiled thoughtfully, then went on well pleased with the absorbed attention he was receiving.

"Why I will laugh, why I will ever laugh is at what he tell me he find most American of all, but so good he will immediately, if it might be, introduce to all Europe. For Europe, alas, has not the clam, the soft clam! Twice was he taken to a famous place where the soft clam is served by a negro cook, who has the inspiration that is so often to the negro of the ports, or other where also, and he has eaten soft clams that make him swear he will, if may be, make the great Ritz-Carlton System know them. This clam and the terrahpeen, for that is as you call it, I see, he would have but to import them? It cannot be. But in the clam are twenty, thirty, even fifty combinations! He felt it, saw it, and sighed that Europe might not know them. And he takes back with him a negro who will cook chicken a la Maryland, -- c'est fa, for that also he ate to his fill and counts it supreme.

The clam, the chicken, the terrahpeen, before these he will bow, for they are national, and it shall no more be said America has no truly national dish. It has many, and I, Francois, will do as does my friend, the chef Escoffier, and even presume to vary on them and make ever new combinations. But again, one must remember ever the original and give it in all perfection to the traveler, French or Italian, or what you will, who would know this new, quite new sensation not to be felt save here. Only one week here and he must return with a swiftness, and sigh that he can do no more than the clam, the terrahpeen and the chicken k la Maryland; but he will come again, for he would know more of canvasback duck that only America has, though France has ducks as famous, our canards rouennais, for who has not heard of Monsieur Frederik and the squeeze that he gives to the one duck for sauce that runs over the other? So it is that the eater has truly two ducks. This and more Monsieur Escoffier knows well ;" and at this point the enthusiast stopped short.

" My hour is past," he said with deep regret. "I have forgotten my duty, it may be, but you pardon what my friend make me think, that I tell it to you. Is it so?" and with the most charming of smiles he bowed to the group, who would rejoice at any time to make a pilgrimage that would give them once more the opportunity of another hour as full of entertainment, of actual human interest, as the one here recorded.