ON MARCH 27th, Cheadle Rotary Club met at Heath House Farm, Forsbrook.
After an excellent meal, President Paul Keates welcomed members accompanied by their wives and partners. Past President, Brian Stoddard reported on the result of the recent Inter-Club Quiz Competition at the Semi Final stage when 30 clubs competed for a place in the Final.
The Cheadle team produced a solid performance to finish in 22nd place. However, as only the top 10 teams were eligible to qualify for the Final, Cheadle will have to wait another year to attempt to achieve their first appearance in the Quiz Final.
President Paul then introduced Rotarian Stuart Wood who announced that as a trained Chef himself, he wanted to give a talk on the first ever Celebrity Chef.
The man to achieve this distinction was a Frenchman named Antonin Careme, born in 1784.
Careme was abandoned by his parents in Paris in 1794 at the height of the French Revolution, and worked as a kitchen boy at a cheap Parisian chophouse in exchange for room and board.
His flair for cooking was recognized and in 1798 he was apprenticed to Sylvain Bailly, a famous patissier with a shop near the Palais Royal. Soon after the end of his apprenticeship, Careme left Bailly and opened his own shop, the Patisserie de la Rue de la Paix.
This post-revolutionary area was a high profile fashionable neighbourhood filled with vibrant life and bustling crowds. Careme's speciality was constructing elaborate displays, sometimes several feet high, made entirely out of foodstuffs such as sugar, marzipan and pastry. He modelled them on temples, pyramids and ancient ruins, taking ideas from history books he had studied at the National Library, thanks to the enlightened attitude of his former employer Bailly.
The fame of Careme spread very quickly and he was soon commissioned to supervise huge banquets or create confectionery displays for many rich and famous people, including Napoleon and the leading French diplomat and gourmand, Tallyrand. When Tallyrand moved to his Chateau de Valencay, a large estate outside Paris, he took Careme with him as his Head Chef and set him the task of creating a whole year's list of menus without any repetition and using only seasonal produce.
Careme worked for other notable celebrities, including Tsar Alexander at St Petersburg and the Prince Regent at the Brighton Pavilion.
Careme's last full-time post was as chef to the banker James Rothschild in Paris.
Careme sadly died at the age of 48, due perhaps to the many years inhaling toxic fumes from the charcoal on which he cooked.
He is remembered as the founder of the haute cuisine concept and is credited with the invention of many recipes especially in confectionery including gros nougats, grosse meringues, croquantes made of almonds and honey, and the development of a food style using herbs and fresh vegetables and simplified sauces.
He is also credited with creating the standard chef's hat, the toque, publishing the classification of all sauces and replacing the practice of serving all dishes at once with service a la russe, which is serving each dish separately as according to the order printed on the menu.
Stuart answered many questions on his subject and on his knowledge of most culinary matters.
Paul congratulated Stuart on his fascinating address and closed the meeting with a hearty Vote of Thanks to Stuart for his meticulous research and compelling talk on the truly first Celebrity Chef.
Anyone interested in attending a Rotary Meeting on a Thursday Evening should contact Brian Stoddard on 01538 754192.