Soyer .   Alexis Benoit     - An interesting rarity
Memoirs of Soyer (by his late secretaries)
MEMOIRS OF ALEXIS SOYER; WITH Unpublished Receipts AND ODDS AND ENDS OF GASTRONOMY. COMPILED AND EDITED BY F. VOLANT & J.R. WARREN, HIS LATE SECTRETARIES. LONDON: W. KENT & CO., 51&52, PATERNOSTER ROW. MDCCCLIX.
FIRST AND SOLE EDITION. Front paste-down and endpaper with advertisements. [1] Half-title. [1] Title page. [1] 1pp. Preface. [1] 2pp. Introduction. 8pp. Contents. 1-286. 287-303 Addenda. [2] Back end-paper and paste-down with advertisements. Original boards and spine in lovely blue with nice illustrations and an illustrated portrait of Soyer on the front cover. Slightly rubbed but still very handsome. Internally as new with very light foxing on the half-title. A very rare book especially in this fine original condition.
- Alexis Benoît Soyer (4 February 1810 – 5 August 1858) was a French chef who became the most famous cook in Victorian London. He also tried to alleviate the suffering of the Irish poor in the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849), and improve the food provided to British soldiers in the Crimean War. Soyer was born at Meaux-en-Brie on the Marne in France. His father had several jobs, one of them as a grocer. In 1821 Soyer was expelled from school and went to live with his elder brother Phillipe in Paris. He became an apprentice at G. Rignon restaurant in Paris. Later, in 1826 he moved to restaurant 'Boulevard des Italiens', where he became chief cook of the kitchens. By June 1830, Soyer was a second cook to Prince Polignac at the French Foreign Office. During the July revolution of 1830, Soyer fled to England and the next year joined the London household of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, where his brother Philippe already worked. Later, he worked for various other British notables, including the Duke of Sutherland, the Marquess of Waterford, William Lloyd of Aston Hall and the Marquess of Ailsa at Isleworth. In 1837, Soyer became chef de cuisine at the Reform Club in London. He designed (what was to become) the famous kitchens with Charles Barry at the newly built Club. He instituted many innovations, including cooking with gas, refrigerators cooled by cold water, and ovens with adjustable temperatures. His kitchens were so famous that they were opened for conducted tours. When Queen Victoria was crowned on 28 June 1838, he prepared a breakfast for 2,000 people in the Club. His salary was more than £1,000 a year. His Lamb Cutlets Reform are still on the menu of the eponymous club. His wife, Elizabeth Emma Jones born in London - 1813, achieved considerable popularity as a painter, chiefly of portraits. She died in 1842 following complications suffered in a premature childbirth brought on by a thunderstorm. Distraught, Soyer erected a monument to her at Kensal Green Cemetery. Soyer died on 5 August 1858. At the time he was designing a mobile cooking carriage for the Army. He was buried on 11 August in Kensal Green Cemetery. This little volume of his memoirs is a very loving testament by his very faithful secretaries. It is also an interesting read. A must for collectors or students of Soyer. As of August 2008, Soyer and his wife's impressive but weather-beaten monument has been granted public money for a complete renovation, to be started by the October of that same year. The plot holds four bodies. The first Emma Soyer (1842) the wife of Alexis, Alexis Soyer(1858) himself, then Francois Simonau (1859) the artist, stepfather to Emma Soyer. Then finally a Lady Watts (1929) who was Francois Simonau's grand niece.

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Antiquarian category
ref number: 11001