Ritz & Escoffier : the hotelier, the chef, and the rise of the leisure class

There is something wonderfully gossipy about Ritz & Escoffier:  the hotelier, the chef, and the rise of the leisure class. In tracing the rise of the luxurious Savoy Hotel, under the leadership of César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier, Luke Barr grants readers a glimpse into some of the biggest scandals of the Belle Époque, letting us get up close and personal with the celebrities involved. Barr also provides luscious descriptions of extravagant parties held at the hotel. These parties are filled with glitterati living the highlife. But they are also rife with consequences for the people working to make them happen. Take for example, the time that the Duc D’Orleans and the Prince of Wales (who hated each other) both wanted extravagant royal parties held at the Savoy on the same night. Ritz didn’t have the space! Unless he could retrofit a basement at the last minute and turn it from a damp, hot, unused billiard room, into a space fit for a royal wedding reception, while Escoffier produced not one, but two, different epic banquets. What follows is full of drama, fancy dresses, and luscious desserts.   

As figures who rocked the world stage at the turn of the century show up at the Savoy you, gentle reader, get to find out if Oscar Wilde was a good tipper. Will Gilbert and Sullivan ever mend their relationship and get back to making opera? Is Sarah Bernhardt okay? This book gives you a slice-of-life view of these celebrated people, through the humanizing lens of Ritz and Escoffier’s lives. And Ritz and Escoffier, for all the drama surrounding them, move through their lives dedicated to their crafts. They do things that no one else ever had, maybe that no one else ever could.  

John Rogers, a writer on the television show Leverage, calls the thrill of “watching smart people tackle tasks with freaky aptitude," competency porn. Beyond the gossip and the history, Ritz and Escoffier: the hotelier, the chef, and the rise of the leisure class is excellent competency porn. Both Ritz and Escoffier were masters of their art, and reading about how they performed for the great, the good, and the nouveau riche is deeply satisfying.