Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau
Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau
Early Years The son of Armand Roze, a landowner and merchant in Chantoiseau, France, Mathurin Roze added the aristocratic-sounding “de Chantoiseau” to his name before moving to Paris in the early 1760s. There he became involved in several business ventures and reform projects. His preoccupation with the financial health of the kingdom coincided with a concern for the physical well-being of the citizenry of Paris. He opened his first restaurant in 1766, and three years later he published a pamphlet describing a fiscal program designed to increase the money supply while neither increasing taxes nor encouraging inflationary pressures. The plan, which received some attention at court and for which Roze hoped to be acknowledged, instead landed him briefly in jail for distributing an incendiary tract. Despite this setback, Roze revisited the issue in 1789. On the eve of the French Revolution this self-described “Friend of All the World” presented a reworked plan to Louis XVI and the Estates General. It was politely dismissed, but Roze periodically made similar proposals throughout the revolutionary years. Roze also wrote the Almanack general, a directory of the most important wholesalers, merchants, bankers, courtiers, artists, and artisans in France, which appeared regularly during the 1770s and 1780s. The almanac also regularly credited a “M. Roze”(himself) with starting the first restaurant.
Restaurateur. In 1768 Roze paid 1,600 livres for the title of “cook-caterer following the Court.” This privilege, which freed him from contending with thecook-caterers’ guild and their regulations, gave Roze’s eatery the imprimatur of royal patronage. According to the almanac, his restaurant specialized in bouillons or “princely consommes.” It did not initially promise an abundance of food or a wide variety of dishes; instead, it advertised a healthful restorative for the “weak-chested,” the asthmatic, the tubercular, and other physically fragile city residents. In the 1769 edition of the Almanach géneral, Chantoiseau included the following description of his gustatory accomplishments: “Roze, rue Saint Honoré, Hôtel d’Aligre, the first restaurateur, offers fine and delicate meals for 3-6 livres per head.” He also offered a novel style of presentation; his food was “served not at a table d’hóte, but at any hour of the day, by the dish, and at a fixed price.” Allowing patrons to eat what and when they wanted distinguished Roze’s establishment from earlier, usually lower-class, table d’hòte eateries, which served the same meal to everyone at a set time for a single price, and his innovation supports his claim to have invented the restaurant as it is known today. Roze’s involvement in the retail food trade was short-lived. Anne Bellot took over his restaurant during the 1780s.
Later Career In 1799 Roze and a partner proposed to establish their own credit system and founded a private bank. This venture failed, and the two went bankrupt. When Roze died in March 1806, he was penniless. Yet, the restaurant he had founded had b come a fixture of the Parisian landscape, and he was eventually recognized as the first modern restaurateur, a distinction he had claimed for himself.
Rebecca L. Spang, The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.)