When Ritz met Escoffier

Jean-François Mesplède on the unique chemistry between two giants of the hotel and culinary worlds that combined to luxurious effect

The partnership between César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier, sealed in Monte Carlo, was one of the most fortunate events in their lives,” said Ritz’s wife Marie-Louise. She goes on to say that although Ritz had fully grasped the importance of exceptional cuisine during his years at the Grand Hôtel de Lucerne, he constantly ran up against obstacles when attempting to put the theory into practice.

Auguste Escoffier
Auguste Escoffier

As for Escoffier, his lack of understanding prevented him from fully exercising his considerable talents. From the moment they met, their compatibility worked its chemistry. So while César Ritz knew exactly how to taste a new sauce and give useful advice on making it, Auguste Escoffier could advise him on the size of dishes and bowls.

Both innovators, Ritz was brimming over with ideas on building and furnishing hotels, the choice of staff uniforms down to the smallest details, and Escoffier was already reflecting on the indispensible reorganisation of the kitchens, an operation he carried out a few years later.

To quote Marie-Louise Ritz again: “they both adored simplicity.” With one man intent on getting rid of ridiculous baubles and faded fabrics, the other was eliminating indigestible garnishes that enhanced nothing, simplifying the menus, going so far as to turn his back on some of Antonin Carême’s edicts from the previous century that he now considered obsolete.

While César was studying the hygienic measures to establish in hotels, Auguste was reflecting on the digestive and nutritional aspects of the food he would serve to his clients. A veritable revolution was taking place in the hotel and restaurant businesses, with the two men who welcomed the most illustrious personalities to their establishment taking the lead.

In the Guide culinaire, subtitled Aide-mémoire de cuisine ...

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