Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême (French: [maʁi ɑ̃twan kaʁɛm]; 8 June 1784 – 12 January 1833) was an early practitioner and exponent of the elaborate style of cooking known as grande cuisine, the "high art" of French cooking: a grandiose style of cookery favoured by both international royalty and by the newly rich of Paris. Carême is often considered one of the first internationally renowned celebrity chefs.
Abandoned by his parents in Paris in 1794 at the height of the French Revolution, he worked as a kitchen boy at a cheap Parisian chophouse in exchange for room and board. In 1798, he was formally apprenticed to Sylvain Bailly, a famous pâtissier with a shop near the Palais-Royal. The post-revolutionary Palais-Royal was a high profile, fashionable neighborhood filled with vibrant life and bustling crowds. Bailly recognized his talent and ambition. By the time he was prepared to leave Bailly, he could stipulate that he should be free to leave his new employer when a better offer came along. Carême opened his own shop, the Pâtisserie de la rue de la Paix, which he maintained until 1813.
Carême gained fame in Paris for his pièces montées, elaborate constructions used as centerpieces, which Bailly had displayed in the pâtisserie window. He made these confections, which were sometimes several feet high, entirely out of foodstuffs such as sugar, marzipan, and pastry. He modeled them on temples, pyramids, and ancient ruins, taking ideas from architectural history books which he studied at the nearby Bibliothèque Nationale, thanks to the enlightened attitude of his first employer Bailly. He is credited with the inventions of gros nougats and grosses meringues, croquantes, made of almonds and honey, and solilemmes.
He did freelance work creating pieces principally for the French diplomat and gourmand Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, but also other members of Parisian high society, including Napoleon. While working on his confections at many private kitchens, he quickly extended his culinary skills to main courses.
Napoleon was famously indifferent to food, but he understood the importance of social relations in the world of diplomacy. In 1804, he gave money to Talleyrand to purchase Château de Valençay, a large estate outside Paris. The château was intended to act as a kind of diplomatic gathering place. When Talleyrand moved there, he took Carême with him.
Carême was set a test by Talleyrand: to create a whole year’s worth of menus, without repetition, and using only seasonal produce. Carême passed the test and completed his training in Talleyrand's kitchens. After the fall of Napoleon, Carême went to London for a time and served as chef de cuisine to the Prince Regent, later George IV. Returning to the continent, he accepted the invitation of Tsar Alexander I to come to St. Petersburg, but stayed so briefly that he prepared not even a single meal for the Tsar. Upon returning to Paris, he became chef to banker James Mayer Rothschild.
Carême died in his Paris house on the Rue Neuve Saint Roche at the age of 48, due perhaps to many years inhaling the toxic fumes of the charcoal over which he cooked. He is remembered as the founder of the haute cuisine concept and is interred in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.
In his first major position, Carême worked as chef de cuisine to Talleyrand, who actively encouraged Carême in the development of a new refined food style using herbs, fresh vegetables, and simplified sauces with few ingredients. Talleyrand became a famous host during the Congress of Vienna—when the congress disbanded, not only the map of Europe but also the culinary tastes of its upper classes were thoroughly revised.
Carême's impact on culinary matters ranged from trivial to theoretical. He is credited with creating the standard chef's hat, the toque, he designed new sauces and dishes, and he published a classification of all sauces into groups based on four mother sauces. He is also frequently credited with replacing the practice of service à la française (serving all dishes at once) with service à la russe (serving each dish in the order printed on the menu) after he returned from service in the Russian court, but others say he was a diehard supporter of service à la française.
Works by Carême
Carême wrote several books on cookery, above all the encyclopedic L'Art de la Cuisine Française (5 vols, 1833–34, of which he had completed three before his death), which included, aside from hundreds of recipes, plans for menus and opulent table settings, a history of French cookery, and instructions for organizing kitchens.
- Le Pâtissier royal parisien, ou Traité élémentaire et pratique de la pâtisserie moderne, suivi d'observations utiles au progrès de cet art, et d'une revue critique des grands bals de 18
- Le Maître d'hôtel français, ou Parallèle de la cuisine ancienne et moderne, considéré sous rapport de l'ordonnance des menus selon les quatre saisons. (Paris, 2 vols. 1822)
- Projets d'architecture pour l'embellissement de Sainte Petersburg. (Paris, 1821)
- Projets d'architecture pour l'embellissement de Paris. (Paris, 1826)
- Le Pâtissier pittoresque, précédé d'un traité des cinq ordres d'architecture (Paris, 1828; 4th edition, Paris, 1842)
- Le Cuisinier parisien, Deuxième édition, revue, corrigée et augmentée. (Paris, 1828)
- L'Art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle. Traité élémentaire et pratique. (Volumes 1-5. [Work completed after Carême's death by Armand Plumerey.] Paris, 1833–1847)
- The royal Parisian pastrycook and confectioner ([From the original of Carême, edited by John Porter] London, 1834)
- French Cookery, Comprising l'Art de la cuisine française; Le Pâtissier royal; Le Cuisinier parisien... ( [translated by William Hall] London, 1836)
- Snodgrass, Mary Ellen (2004). Encyclopedia of Kitchen History. Routledge. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-135-45572-9.
- Goldstein, Darra (1995). "Russia, Carême, and the Culinary Arts". The Slavonic and East European Review. 73 (4): 691–715 [p. 691, note 1 remarks that he preferred the "Russian" [sic] Antonin (the Russian form is Anton; Antonin is the Czech form]. JSTOR 4211935.
- Connell, Brendan (2012). Lives of Notorious Cooks. Chomu Press. ISBN 978-1907681202.
- Kelly, Ian (2003). Cooking for Kings, the Life of Antonin Carème, the First Celebrity Chef. Walker & Company. pp. 35–36. ISBN 0802714366.
- Kelly (2004), Chapter 2.
- One of the pièces montées at the dinner served to the Prince Regent and the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia, 18 January 1817 (Channel 4 reportage) was "Un gros nougat à la française"; the Royal Pavilion in sugar was also featured.
- Bernier, Georges (1989). Antonin Carême (1783–1833): La sensualité en Europe. Paris: B. Grasset. pp. 99f. ISBN 2246420717.
- Lady Morgan English fish soup (Creation of the great French Chef Marie Antoine Careme, 1784–1833)
- Kelly, p. 79, 206
- Carême, Marie Antonin (1854). L'art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle (in French). 3. Paris: Au Depot de librairie. p. 1. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- "...Service à la russe [,] the style Carême helped to import from Russia...": Kelly, p. 13
- Fischer, John (2001). "Table Service". Gastronomica. 1 (3): 90–91. doi:10.1525/gfc.2001.1.3.90.
Carême made a final stand for the elaborate service à la française, arguing for its superiority with his elaborate pièces montées
- Carême, Marie-Antonin (1822). Le Maitre d'hotel français, tome premier (in French) (Tome Premier ed.). Paris: Didot. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- Carême, Marie-Antoine (1842). Le Maitre d'hotel français: Traité des menus à servir à Paris, à St-Petersbourg, à Londres et à Vienne, tome second. Paris: Béthune et Plon. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- Marie-Antonin Carême; Armand Plumery (1847). L'art de la cuisine française au dix-neuvième siècle: traité élémentaire et pratique. Tome II. Paris: Comptoir des imprimeurs-unis. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- "Carême's career". Archived from the original on 2007-12-21. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- "Marie-Antoine Careme". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
- Kelly, Ian (2004). Cooking For Kings: The Life of Antoine Carême, the First Celebrity Chef. Walker & Co. ISBN 0-8027-1436-6.
- Metzner, Paul (1998-11-11). Crescendo of the Virtuoso: Spectacle, Skill, and Self-Promotion in Paris during the Age of Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20684-7. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- Patrick Rambourg, Histoire de la cuisine et de la gastronomie françaises, Paris, Ed. Perrin (coll. tempus n° 359), 2010, 381 pages. ISBN 978-2-262-03318-7
- "Antonin Careme: The First Celebrity Chef: Biography Highlights Career of a 19th-Century Culinary Star". All Things Considered, 25 May 2004.