Charpentier, Henri 1880-1961

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CHARPENTIER, Henri 1880-1961

PERSONAL:

Born 1880, in Nice, France; died 1961, in Renondo Beach, CA; married. Education: Studied with chefs Escoffier, Jean Camous, and Cesar Ritz.

CAREER:

Chef at various restaurants, including: Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo; Maxims, Paris; Tour d'Argent, Paris; Café Royale, London; Savoy, London; Metropole, Moscow; Vier Jahresszeiten, Munich; Quirinale, Rome; and Belle Meuniere, Rome. Henri Restaurant, Long Island, NY, restauranteur, 1906.

WRITINGS:

(With Boyden Sparkes) Life á la Henri; Being the Memoirs of Henri Charpentier, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 1934, reprinted, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2001.

Food and Finesse; The Bride's Bible, W. B. Conkey Company (Chicago, IL), 1945, published as The Henri Charpentier Cookbook: Recipes and Memoirs of the World-famed French Chef Who Created Crèpes Suzette, Price, Stern, Sloan (Los Angeles, CA), 1970.

SIDELIGHTS:

Henri Charpentier, who immigrated to the United States from France in the early 1900s, not only created the Crêpes Suzette, but also the very notion of the superstar French chef in the United States. After working at nine of the most famous restaurants in Europe, Charpentier opened his own restaurant on Long Island in 1906. Over the next three decades he opened more U.S. restaurants and in the process served kings, presidents, moguls, and movie stars. So in 1934 it seemed natural that the celebrity chef publish his memoirs. Life á la Henri; Being the Memoirs of Henri Charpentier, coauthored with Boyden Sparkes, serves up Charpentier's life story, together with celebrity anecdotes and actual recipes. The memoir was reprinted in 2001 as part of the Modern Library's food series, leading a Kirkus reviewer to praise the book's "unique blend of success story, food history, romance, and sheer magic." A Publishers Weekly praised it as "thoroughly old-school," while a critic for Los Angeles Magazine fell for Charpentier's "devastating Gallic charm." Craig Seligman, writing for the New York Times Book Review, agreed that Life á la Henri "practically waddles under the weight of [Charpentier's] personality," but admitted to having been won over by "the sheer oppressive force of his good cheer."

1970 saw the posthumous publication of the long-awaited Henri Charpentier Cookbook: Recipes and Memoirs of the World-famed French Chef who Created Crèpes Suzette, a version of the chef's 1945 privately published Food and Finesse; The Bride's Bible. Again Charpentier's writing provided a mix of anecdotes and recipes, though George Aguirre of the Library Journal preferred the "interesting people and events" over recipes that "provide illuminating insights into a well-known chef, but … are not for a beginner."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 2001, Mark Knoblauch, review of Life á la Henri; Being the Memoirs of Henri Charpentier, p. 1106.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2001, review of Life á la Henri, p. 366.

Library Journal, April 15, 1971, George Aguirre, review of The Henri Charpentier Cookbook: Recipes and Memoirs of the World-famed French Chef who Created Crèpes Suzette, p. 1368.

Los Angeles Magazine, May, 2001, review of Life á la Henri, p. 139.

New York Times Book Review, December 6, 1970, Nika Hazelton, review of The Henri Charpentier Cookbook, p. 97; March 25, 2001, Craig Seligman, review of Life á la Henri, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, September 14, 1970, review of The Henri Charpentier Cookbook, p. 37; January 15, 2001, review of Life á la Henri, p. 72.*

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