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Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class

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Luke Barr explores the advent of the luxe life through the saga of hotelier Cesar Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier, whose partnership brought us not only the adjective 'ritzy, ' itself no small testament, but also such once-novel phenomena as hotel rooms with their own bathrooms, and innovative dishes like peach Melba. It's a charming tale of success, scandal, and Luke Barr explores the advent of the luxe life through the saga of hotelier Cesar Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier, whose partnership brought us not only the adjective 'ritzy, ' itself no small testament, but also such once-novel phenomena as hotel rooms with their own bathrooms, and innovative dishes like peach Melba. It's a charming tale of success, scandal, and redemption--complete with an unexpected villain.


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Luke Barr explores the advent of the luxe life through the saga of hotelier Cesar Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier, whose partnership brought us not only the adjective 'ritzy, ' itself no small testament, but also such once-novel phenomena as hotel rooms with their own bathrooms, and innovative dishes like peach Melba. It's a charming tale of success, scandal, and Luke Barr explores the advent of the luxe life through the saga of hotelier Cesar Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier, whose partnership brought us not only the adjective 'ritzy, ' itself no small testament, but also such once-novel phenomena as hotel rooms with their own bathrooms, and innovative dishes like peach Melba. It's a charming tale of success, scandal, and redemption--complete with an unexpected villain.

30 review for Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class

  1. 4 out of 5

    Resh (The Book Satchel)

    I loved this book!! If you have a thing for glitz and glam and luxury living, this book is for you. I love how Barr writes! He does not make the narrative boring anywhere along the whole book. While I was aware of Ritz because of the chain of hotels, I had no idea of Escofier, his friend and chef, who was instrumental in his growth. That's what the book is all about. What a pair Ritz and Escoffier are! Their stint at Savoy hotel and their decision to start out on their own. There are scandals, I loved this book!! If you have a thing for glitz and glam and luxury living, this book is for you. I love how Barr writes! He does not make the narrative boring anywhere along the whole book. While I was aware of Ritz because of the chain of hotels, I had no idea of Escofier, his friend and chef, who was instrumental in his growth. That's what the book is all about. What a pair Ritz and Escoffier are! Their stint at Savoy hotel and their decision to start out on their own. There are scandals, literary figures and political figures in guest appearances, the development of 'luxury' for the rich and so on. Not to forget the fine food descriptions and recipes that Escoffier develops. Drool worthy!! The writing was fun, amusing and engaging. By the end I wished there was more of a deep character study of Ritz and Escoffier but I also realised I didn't mind it not being there because the book was so good. It was a wonderful and entertaining read. Disclaimer : Much thanks to Crown Publishing for a copy of the novel. All opinions are my own. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    4.5 stars. César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier teamed up in the 1890s, changing the hotel and restaurant industries, first in London at the Savoy Hotel, then in Paris and eventually the world. They brought a new sophistication and sense of luxury in everything they did, from room decor, the treatment of guests and how food is prepared. Under their direction, the Savoy, with its modern electric lights, elevators, en suite bathrooms, and superior restaurant became THE hotel destination in London. 4.5 stars. César Ritz and Auguste Escoffier teamed up in the 1890s, changing the hotel and restaurant industries, first in London at the Savoy Hotel, then in Paris and eventually the world. They brought a new sophistication and sense of luxury in everything they did, from room decor, the treatment of guests and how food is prepared. Under their direction, the Savoy, with its modern electric lights, elevators, en suite bathrooms, and superior restaurant became THE hotel destination in London. After leaving the Savoy under a cloud of scandal, Ritz and Escoffier opened The Ritz Hotel in Paris, outdoing the Savoy in many ways. They also became involved with the Carlton Hotel in London, again besting the Savoy on it’s own turf. Ritz and Escoffier recognized that there was a wealthy class to be catered to and they set the standard for how to do it. The word “ritzy” eventually became synonymous with style and glamour. The book is incredibly well written, almost reading like a good novel. The ups and downs of their lives make for a compelling story. Not much back story is given about their lives, the book mainly concentrating on their remarkable collaboration. So much of what we take for granted in the hotel and restaurant industries was developed by these two pioneers. There is a lot of name dropping in terms of who they catered to. There are delectable descriptions of the food Escoffier cooked. And if you can get through this book without the song “Putting on the Ritz” constantly going through your head, well you’re a better person than I am. I definitely recommend this book. It is a delight to read and wonderfully informative.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Judy Lesley

    I received an ARC of this book through the Amazon Vine program. Cesar Ritz was already on his way to making a name for himself before Richard D'Oyly Carte convinced him to come to London for a short stay to help get the new Savoy Hotel on its feet. Ritz brought along Auguste Escoffier to take care of the food side of the service. Both men remained much longer than they had expected to and were instrumental in changing the old rules of accommodation and dining for their wealthy patrons. The I received an ARC of this book through the Amazon Vine program. Cesar Ritz was already on his way to making a name for himself before Richard D'Oyly Carte convinced him to come to London for a short stay to help get the new Savoy Hotel on its feet. Ritz brought along Auguste Escoffier to take care of the food side of the service. Both men remained much longer than they had expected to and were instrumental in changing the old rules of accommodation and dining for their wealthy patrons. The juggling act of including new money patrons with the aristocratic customers was deftly handled by Ritz. Escoffier began to educate the palates of Englishmen who were more inclined to entertain at home. During these late years in the reign of Queen Victoria the social climate was changing as more and more money was being made through trade, not inheritance. D'Oyly Carte was content to allow Ritz and Escoffier to run the Savoy as they saw fit until the profits began to disappear. Through a combination of bad management and conducting business as it had always been done the men were on a collision course with disaster. Ritz and Escoffier worked so well together they established the standards for luxury and indulgence in hotels throughout Europe. This book is a look at what went wrong at the Savoy after everything had gone so right. From there Ritz and Escoffier continued to run hotels only now as owners or partners. Their willingness to use modern technology, such as 24 hour electricity throughout the hotel and elevators which worked round the clock, made their properties the destination of choice by those who could afford to stay there. This book gives readers a look at an important age of social change. Ritz was such a forward thinker he didn't hesitate to break down the old rules of who would be allowed access to the finest luxuries in lodging and food. His efforts were directly responsible for women dining in a public place when unaccompanied by a man. It seems that Ritz was constantly working to loosen the strictures of society in order to make his hotels more financially successful but also to give genuine pleasure and comfort to patrons. Escoffier changed the entire atmosphere of the kitchen and provided an example of how a kitchen could be run to remove the turmoil which had been known to rule there. These are food service standards which are still practiced today. Both men had a proven impact on how the two industries they represented were changing with the times. The hotel and food service industries would never be the same. The information is available in an easy to read narrative but I have to admit to finding the book easy to put down. This book might be of more interest to readers with a special interest in the food and lodging industries.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    Luke Barr, who has written before on high profile chefs, provides a dual biography of Cesar Ritz and August Eschffier, the hotelier and chef who together invented 20th century models for the luxury hotel with the world class restaurant attached to it and serving the most prestigious customers in the world. The book chronicles the rise of the duo from early successes in Europe to their breakout at the Savoy Hotel in London to their move back to Paris to found the Ritz Hotel to their subsequent Luke Barr, who has written before on high profile chefs, provides a dual biography of Cesar Ritz and August Eschffier, the hotelier and chef who together invented 20th century models for the luxury hotel with the world class restaurant attached to it and serving the most prestigious customers in the world. The book chronicles the rise of the duo from early successes in Europe to their breakout at the Savoy Hotel in London to their move back to Paris to found the Ritz Hotel to their subsequent expansions after 1900. Eventually the world changes (WW1) and time catches up with the pair. Their influence is still around both directly (Ritz-Carlton Hotels; Ritz Crackers) and indirectly (the Home Alone movies; Eloise at the Plaza; even the hotel environment in “A Gentleman in Moscow”). We take the combination of world class hotels and top flight dining as a given and yet Barr shows this is a fairly recent development dating from the last decades of the 19th century. What did I like about the book? The story about restaurants and hotels is a good one, but it cannot be the key. It cannot just be about the food, especially what we now know and what the scolds never tire of repeating about the health benefits of gourmet eating. Living well took its toll on many of the principals in this book. Mr. Barr provides lots of interesting detail into how all the different aspects of this complex product had to fit together for the overall result to be successful. This took to powerful integrating eye of Cesar Ritz to balance the impossible set of variables that were of potential interest for discerning and wealthy customers. A good example of this is the discussion of how Ritz decided on the lighting schemes for his Ritz Hotel before it opened in Paris. The product is indeed a fascinating one, and Mr. Barr’s book provides a lot of nifty detail about how the business works and how Ritz made his choices. Imagine how difficult of a business this must be, given the variety of different customers, the wide range of possible offerings, and the cutthroat competition in which an establishment would get one chance to captivate a customer and would lose them forever if the customer was not enthralled. Having said that, there was not enough said about the broader business model, including the financing, pricing, and broader supply chain. In a business where key ingredients are sourced globally and stakeholders are numerous and complexly intertwined, how does the business model generate profits for those who are good at it? This is far from obvious. I know that the world of financing and social media and suppliers has moved on to more modern conditions, the basic problem persists. How does one create, price, and sustain an adventure catering to those who literally have money to burn? Mr. Barr provides tantalizing hints of this world in his discussion of the situations that forced Ritz and Escoffier to leave the Savoy and go to Paris. They are only tasty tidbits, however, and more discussion of this would have helped the book. It is no doubt true that personal relationships dominate this sort of business, but the numbers involved in these businesses are no doubt staggering and telling the interpersonal narratives does not get to the heart of how this sort of business worked then or works today. Having said that, I will note that there are few if any books about high end restaurants that are really satisfying and Mr. Barr’s book is one of the better ones currently on offer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Have I mentioned lately how much I miss teaching the World of Food class? Before Ritz and Escoffier, "hotels" were either the house of someone from whom you could wrangle and invitation, or a crummy inn where you might sleep with strangers and bedbugs, or maybe an exclusive spa that refused to admit nouveau riche Americans or Jews. Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier has begun their quiet revolution in hotels in Switzerland and along the holiday coast of France, but their paths crossed at the whim Have I mentioned lately how much I miss teaching the World of Food class? Before Ritz and Escoffier, "hotels" were either the house of someone from whom you could wrangle and invitation, or a crummy inn where you might sleep with strangers and bedbugs, or maybe an exclusive spa that refused to admit nouveau riche Americans or Jews. Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier has begun their quiet revolution in hotels in Switzerland and along the holiday coast of France, but their paths crossed at the whim of Richard D'Oyly Carte in his new London Savoy hotel. D'Oyly Carte might know musical theater, but had no sense of the hospitality industry--giving Ritz and Escoffier the chance to institute the modernized kitchen brigade system, teach guests how to use flush toilets, put unaccompanied elite women in the dining room (in full view!) and invent the gentle art of celebrity management (Sarah Bernhardt has taken too much chloral in Room 473!).

  6. 5 out of 5

    LAPL Reads

    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 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. Reviewed by Andrea Borchert, Librarian, Science, Technology & Patents Department

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dianne Everson

    I enjoyed this book, but it is not for everyone. The history is interesting, but Escoffiers menus were a little tedious after the second multi course one. It would make a fun movie, with the "ritzy" hotels and period costumes.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Connors

    Well researched but the writing was meh. It didnt draw me in. Well researched but the writing was meh. It didn’t draw me in.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    A highly readable and entertaining book about Ritz and Escoffier, two figures who revolutionised luxury and pleasure, perhaps most notably in changing who should get to experience it. Throughout the book, Barr gives us compelling insights into the minds of the characters and threads together unfolding stories with a strong grasp of pace and detail. As someone interested in food, I particularly enjoyed reading about Escoffier's approach to cooking and eating, especially as his name is still so A highly readable and entertaining book about Ritz and Escoffier, two figures who revolutionised luxury and pleasure, perhaps most notably in changing who should get to experience it. Throughout the book, Barr gives us compelling insights into the minds of the characters and threads together unfolding stories with a strong grasp of pace and detail. As someone interested in food, I particularly enjoyed reading about Escoffier's approach to cooking and eating, especially as his name is still so revered in the field of cooking today.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    From the Publisher - In early August 1889, Cesar Ritz, a Swiss hotelier highly regarded for his exquisite taste, found himself at the Savoy Hotel in London. He had come at the request of Richard D'Oyly Carte, the financier of Gilbert & Sullivan's comic operas, who had modernized theater and was now looking to create the world's best hotel. D'Oyly Carte soon seduced Ritz to move to London with his team, which included Auguste Escoffier, the chef de cuisine known for his elevated, original From the Publisher - In early August 1889, Cesar Ritz, a Swiss hotelier highly regarded for his exquisite taste, found himself at the Savoy Hotel in London. He had come at the request of Richard D'Oyly Carte, the financier of Gilbert & Sullivan's comic operas, who had modernized theater and was now looking to create the world's best hotel. D'Oyly Carte soon seduced Ritz to move to London with his team, which included Auguste Escoffier, the chef de cuisine known for his elevated, original dishes. The result was a hotel and restaurant like no one had ever experienced, run in often mysterious and always extravagant ways--which created quite a scandal once exposed. arr deftly re-creates the thrilling Belle Epoque era just before World War I, when British aristocracy was at its peak, women began dining out unaccompanied by men, and American nouveaux riches and gauche industrialists convened in London to show off their wealth. In their collaboration at the still celebrated Savoy Hotel, where they welcomed loyal and sometimes salacious clients, such as Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt, Escoffier created the modern kitchen brigade and codified French cuisine for the ages in his seminal Le Guide culinaire, which remains in print today, and Ritz, whose name continues to grace the finest hotels across the world, created the world's first luxury hotel. The pair also ruffled more than a few feathers in the process. Fine dining would never be the same--or more intriguing. Abit of history (from me) We all have heard of Ritz but few have heard of Escoffier unless you have read about or studied hotel and restaurant history. At the end of the Victorian era, snobbery was beginning to peak, although it would not really be over until the end of the Edwardian era. Caught up in this snobbery were the nouveau-riche and their "dollar duchesses", women (such as Consuelo Vanderbilt) who were married off to cash-poor gentry with titles. The nouveau-riche liked to show off their wealth and where better but a hotel and its famed restaurant where women could (gassssp) eat alone in full view? (We can also blame Escoffier for the kitchen brigade and despotism that led to tyrant chefs such as Gordan Ramsey.. thanks for that...not!) If you love social history and anything travel and food-related you will love this book. Deftly and highly entertainingly written you will be caught up in the founding of what we take for granted today whether we are camping out at Motel 6 or ensconced in the presidential suite at the Savoy in present-day London. I am still laughing at the thought of having to teach these snobs how to flush a toilet that (gasp) was IN THEIR ROOM vs. a w.c. down the hall or using a water closet. [fun fact - my husband's grandfather refused to have an indoor bathroom as late as the 1930s ... he thought that was the most disgusting thing on the planet. This is a great book for any reader of history, traveler, or foodie --- it is certainly being purchased by me and placed on my bookshelf once published..

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

    ***I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway*** I don't know y'all...I just couldn't get into this book. It was fine, I guess, but not more than that. I did learn things that were fascinating, but I wish there had been more. I feel like the author started in the middle of the story and glossed over large swathes of Ritz and Escoffier's lives. It felt rushed. All in all, it's a great topic but a mediocre book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    This gives a very good sense of what it was like then for people with money and/or fame. He shows how Ritz stage managed a change from a world where women did not eat in restaurants to a world where anyone who could afford to ate in restaurants. And perhaps most significantly, a world where hotel rooms did not have bathrooms to a world where they did. 😉

  13. 4 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    This book provides an interesting look at the lives of hotelier César Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier. Both left "the continent" to tackle the jobs of establishing a grand hotel with a grand restaurant in London. At that time in England, fine entertainment was usually done only in private homes and gentlemen's clubs, which of course excluded a lot of people. Also, it was debatable if the food served during such exclusive gathering could even qualify as "fine dining". The British were not seen as This book provides an interesting look at the lives of hotelier César Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier. Both left "the continent" to tackle the jobs of establishing a grand hotel with a grand restaurant in London. At that time in England, fine entertainment was usually done only in private homes and gentlemen's clubs, which of course excluded a lot of people. Also, it was debatable if the food served during such exclusive gathering could even qualify as "fine dining". The British were not seen as being very adventurous with their cooking by others in Europe, particularly those in France. Messieurs Ritz and Escoffier would go on to change the hotel and dining worlds in England, opening the doors for the acceptable presence of the nouveau riche, Americans, Jews, women unescorted by men, etc. César Ritz was also involved at the same time in other hotels throughout Europe. What he accomplished in a 24-hour day was astounding, but all that never-ending work had a steep price. While I did not find this book by Luke Barr fascinating, it was still interesting enough to keep me reading to the end, and now I know all that was behind the 1920s slang term "to put on the Ritz". (Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    I'll be back when I have read the book. It looks like an interesting biography, but at the same time made by another small time propagandist: the "leisure class" could not have been made or "risen" because of a cook and small time manager. They merely taped an unaddressed need. And the offer was mostly bullshit, as the people writing about Escoffier barely understand physics, chemistry or economics, yet they are in ecstasy about dishes they have never tasted in the original form.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Wolfe

    Enjoyable and engaging overview of Ritz' and Escoffier's career(s). Set well in the context of history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    3.5 stars

  17. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Hotelier Cesar Ritz and chef Auguste Escoffier transform the Savoy in London and later open the Ritz hotel. Their story is quite interesting as it exposes the prejudices and the rise of the leisure class.

  18. 5 out of 5

    DeAnna Knippling

    Hotelier Ritz and chef Escoffier take the fusty old hotel business and shake it up...by the power of amenities and poached peaches! This was a fun, short, fast read about the transformation of the London hotel business (centering on the Savoy) from the old world to one we can recognize today: calculated luxury. Recommend as a light nonfiction read for the late Victorian period.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dan Seitz

    A brisk, light look at the title subjects, how they changed how we travel and eat, and how oddly corrupt they were in their own way.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Moira

    I found this to be a surprisingly delightful read. Its written in a relaxed, almost gossipy style, that is well researched. Escoffiers menus sound amazing. You get the glitz and glam, the history and scandals of the time. I found this to be a surprisingly delightful read. It’s written in a relaxed, almost gossipy style, that is well researched. Escoffier’s menus sound amazing. You get the glitz and glam, the history and scandals of the time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elease

    This was pretty good, but I was left kind of sad at the end. I also felt like there was something missing...I don't know. The main focus is on Ritz, but we learn very little about his early life; he sort of just materializes as someone who is already fairly well established in the hotel industry. And Escoffier plays second fiddle a bit for the first part of the book. I feel like I learned even less about his back story (oh, and his poor wife...whatever happened to her?!). Also, I wish I had not This was pretty good, but I was left kind of sad at the end. I also felt like there was something missing...I don't know. The main focus is on Ritz, but we learn very little about his early life; he sort of just materializes as someone who is already fairly well established in the hotel industry. And Escoffier plays second fiddle a bit for the first part of the book. I feel like I learned even less about his back story (oh, and his poor wife...whatever happened to her?!). Also, I wish I had not listened to in on audio, because the lists of who attended what dinners and what was on the menu did get tedious to listen to. I certainly would have skimmed right past these in a physical book. All that said, a nice romp through late 19th century high class Europe and an easy enough summer read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ejayen

    Realistically there are only two things that could make this book better. If Oscar Wilde didn't exist and if the book came with scratch and sniff sections. Also the rich people were crazy loose with their money back then.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Deidre

    A captivating and well-researched slice of Gilded Age life. Ritz and Escoffier are legends in the worlds of service, luxury, and style. The book captures the moment that the Savoy hotel became the place to be seen by London's elite. The details on Escoffier's famed elaborate menus, gossip at the time, and the tidal shift in wealth made this a fascinating read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Koltnow

    What does one think of when one hears the name Ritz? Cesar Ritz, the man behind the concept of ritzy, was a simple man, uneducated and insecure. He thought he had peasant hands. Yet, he knew the hotel business. When approached by the owners of the Savoy Hotel in London, Ritz took charge and modernized the concept of hotels and service forever. Ritz's first act was to install Auguste Escoffier as the hotel's chef. Escoffier, with his theory of brigade de cuisine, revolutionized the preparation of What does one think of when one hears the name Ritz? Cesar Ritz, the man behind the concept of ritzy, was a simple man, uneducated and insecure. He thought he had peasant hands. Yet, he knew the hotel business. When approached by the owners of the Savoy Hotel in London, Ritz took charge and modernized the concept of hotels and service forever. Ritz's first act was to install Auguste Escoffier as the hotel's chef. Escoffier, with his theory of brigade de cuisine, revolutionized the preparation of food and the philosophy of service. He fought to have cooks recognized as professionals. This is a compelling adventure story, as Ritz and Escoffier battle tight-fisted directors, old-world attitudes, and the sheer physical challenge of serving hundreds of fastidious diners at private parties and at evening service. This is a rarefied world of princes, lords, ladies, and the occasional courtesan. Ritz changed the social order by appealing to Jews and the nouveau riches (those who earned money). This slim narrative has color, excitement, history, and even financial scandal. Names are dropped, especially the Prince of Wales (soon to be King Edward VII), tons of truffles are eaten, and champagne flows throughout. This book may be about snobs but it is not for snobs. A delight!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Schuyler Wallace

    The stories of both a legendary hotelman and an exemplary chef make for a great read in Luke Barrs Ritz & Escoffier. The late 1800s into the early 1900s was the period of the European grand hotel and two men, Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier, were largely responsible for the proliferation of many fine hostelries at that time. Hotelier Cesar Ritz became famous as his travels around the world of hospitality took him through ever-increasing levels of responsibility as he created and maintained The stories of both a legendary hotelman and an exemplary chef make for a great read in Luke Barr’s “Ritz & Escoffier.” The late 1800s into the early 1900s was the period of the European grand hotel and two men, Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier, were largely responsible for the proliferation of many fine hostelries at that time. Hotelier Cesar Ritz became famous as his travels around the world of hospitality took him through ever-increasing levels of responsibility as he created and maintained the highest levels of service in many fine hotels all over Europe. He met master chef Auguste Escoffier in Switzerland in 1873 and their tandem career of creating fine hotels with exquisite food preparation began. Some small accomplishments started a long and prosperous relationship. Their first major venture was the renovation of the Savoy in London in 1890. The transformation was an immediate success creating a major change in aristocratic lodging and dining. Ritz was able to exercise his managerial magic to attract the moneyed to the hotel’s swank confines and Escoffier created many famous dishes at the Savoy. Despite their success, both Ritz and Escoffier were fired in 1897 by the board of directors for improprieties with hotel properties and supplies as well as conflicts of interest as they attempted to expand their vision of fine hotels throughout Europe. Their reputations were not damaged, however, as they successfully opened Hotel Ritz in Paris and, in subsequent years, the Carlton and Ritz hotels in London. These, along with the Savoy, are still operating as first-class hotels today. Escoffier went on to oversee food preparation aboard the super liner SS Imperator and so impressed Kaiser Wilhelm II that the Emperor proclaimed him to be the “Emperor of Chefs” further establishing him as the pre-eminent French chef at the time. Several international culinary schools operate today under the Escoffier name. His cookbook is legendary and still in print. Luke Barr is an editor at “Travel+Leisure” magazine and author of “Provence 1970” His great aunt was M.F.K. Fisher, a prominent American food writer, giving him some foresight into the world of cooking. He is a great writer, presenting a complex biography of two complicated men and their lives in the hospitality business. I found the book to be fascinating and written in a style that provided the reader with details about a business that is full of intrigue and abstract ideas. Innovative ideas about managing hotels and the staffs and the creation of magnificent food are provided. Aside from absence of bedbugs and impeccable cleanliness, it’s hard to define what’s necessary in the hospitality world but Barr succeeds with great insight. It’s difficult to place a label on what it is that provides comfort and taste to those who eat and travel, or, for that matter, those who are merely away from home when its time to have a meal. The author has done that with great competence. This might be my favorite book of the year.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Malinowski

    Ritz and Escoffier by Luke Barr is a fascinating story of the rise of the famed Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz and the French chef Auguste Escoffier. Barr's pleasant writing style made this narrative nonfiction book one I read in a little over a day. I enjoyed the descriptions of the opulence of the Savoy and Ritz Hotels and a glimpse into the life of the upper class who stayed at these hotels. However, I did not find that the book sufficiently explored the "Rise of the Leisure Class." There was Ritz and Escoffier by Luke Barr is a fascinating story of the rise of the famed Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz and the French chef Auguste Escoffier. Barr's pleasant writing style made this narrative nonfiction book one I read in a little over a day. I enjoyed the descriptions of the opulence of the Savoy and Ritz Hotels and a glimpse into the life of the upper class who stayed at these hotels. However, I did not find that the book sufficiently explored the "Rise of the Leisure Class." There was little/no discussion about the political and social unrests of the time or the technological advances (save the information about plumbing as it pertained to private bathrooms in the hotels) that made it possible for the bourgeoisie to take advantage of Ritz and Escoffier's offerings. I think that bringing more of this into the story, rather than simply referring to Ritz's rise in status from Swiss farmer to esteemed hotelier, would have been appropriate. Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable, well-written (and documented) book. Note: I received a Galley Proof from the publisher as a Goodreads Giveaway winner, but my review was critical and unbiased.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    Brisk, efficient, informative & entertaining pop culture history. The gossipy tone helps to make the story fly, and manages to impart a great deal of information without overloading the reader with too much minutiae.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brooke Everett

    Fascinating social history that 100% reads like a novel. Luke Barr has inherited the prowess for prose that his great aunt, M.F.K. Fisher, also wielded so deftly to describe places, characters, and sensory experiences. There are certain figures in history who occupied such a particular time and place, and through quite a bit of dedication and hard work, truly did change the world. Together, Ritz and Escoffier were basically the big bang of hospitality. I was out of town this past weekend staying Fascinating social history that 100% reads like a novel. Luke Barr has inherited the prowess for prose that his great aunt, M.F.K. Fisher, also wielded so deftly to describe places, characters, and sensory experiences. There are certain figures in history who occupied such a particular time and place, and through quite a bit of dedication and hard work, truly did change the world. Together, Ritz and Escoffier were basically the big bang of hospitality. I was out of town this past weekend staying at a hotel that was all-around pretty mediocre and was just missing convenient features. Even over 125 years later, I'll bet Ritz would have caught and remedied all of them. Even one of my fiancé's co-workers exclaimed, "I'm only staying at the Ritz from now on!" when reviewing his list of the hotel's shortcomings. "[Sarah] Bernhardt seemed to subsist mainly on champagne, and was no gourmet, yet she recognized Escoffier's soulful ambition to create something sublime." p. 67 On the nouveau riche: "And [Barney] Barnato, who'd grown up in the Jewish slums of London's East End, now famously carried a handful of diamonds in his pocket, which he would take out and play with, as if to remind himself of the precariousness of his great fortune - he might just drop one - but also of the shameless audacity it took to require it." p. 75 "[Max] Beerbohm, a member of Oscar Wilde's literary set and a frequent guest at the Savoy, had wryly identified the sense of prestige that now accompanied travel: mobility was a new kind of status, something to brag about." p. 101 "The menu was a kind of poem, Escoffier believed - teasing, seducing, promising pleasure. A poem of anticipation. The list of dishes had power, and never more so than when Escoffier invented something new, and named it..." p. 109-110 "[Lighting] was, for Ritz, a most crucial question. The comfort and ease of women in the restaurant was paramount, and 'nothing helps them to look their best so much as the proper lighting,' he said. The better everyone felt they looked, the better for business." p. 214 "[Escoffier and Ritz] both looked back with amazement at what they had achieved together in the 1890s, how different the world was then, how they themselves had changed it. It was Ritz who had brought them to London, who cajoled and convinced Escoffier to take a risk, to gamble on the unknown. And it was Escoffier who had ensured their success with his elegant, superior cooking. Together, just as Ritz had promised, they had conquered London and the world, alchemizing food and luxury into a new kind of glamour, a cosmopolitanism for the twentieth century and beyond." p. 272

  29. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Cesar Ritz started his career as a waiter in Parisian restaurants. He worked his way up to better and better eateries, and finally made the step to being a hotel manager. He had an eye for improving things and a memory for what guests liked and didnt like. Auguste Escoffier was a brilliant chef, with equal skills in creating food and managing kitchens. When he started, kitchens were mad houses filled with yelling, drunkenness, food that arrived with some bits already cold and some hot, and very Cesar Ritz started his career as a waiter in Parisian restaurants. He worked his way up to better and better eateries, and finally made the step to being a hotel manager. He had an eye for improving things and a memory for what guests liked and didn’t like. Auguste Escoffier was a brilliant chef, with equal skills in creating food and managing kitchens. When he started, kitchens were mad houses filled with yelling, drunkenness, food that arrived with some bits already cold and some hot, and very slow service. He and Ritz would find they worked together like a fine machine. When they took over the Savoy in London, the world of hotels and restaurants changed. They brought the running of hotels and restaurant kitchens to the level of fine art. Before Ritz took over the Savoy, even expensive hotels had one communal bathroom per floor; he instituted en suite bathrooms. He insisted on modern plumbing and electric lighting (a new thing, just coming into use) and adopted the telephone for business use immediately. He filled the rooms and common areas with plants and flowers. He allowed anyone into the restaurant to dine, not just the aristocracy- unescorted women, actors, Jews, the nouveau riche, even ladies of dubious morals; basically, anyone who could afford evening dress. He and Escoffier worked together to produce over the top parties for people like the Prince of Wales, Escoffier producing new dishes for the guests of honor. Escoffier kept meticulous records of every menu and every recipe, eventually producing a massive cookbook that was the gold standard of French cooking for decades. Eventually, however, the fact that they worked without close supervision caught up with them. They were accused by the hotel stockholders and owners of charging personal goods to the hotel, taking kickbacks from suppliers, and other monetary malfeasance. They were both fired promptly. It didn’t hurt for long, however- they went on to open the original Ritz hotel, the first hotel under his name. It’s a fascinating look at social history at the turn of the 20th century, a time of huge changes in both technology and social ways. Americans were marrying into the British aristocracy, new millionaires were appearing all over, people in the theater were becoming acceptable, and the British aristocracy was at the peak of their popularity. There are several menus from special events reproduced, but I would have liked to have seen some photos included in the book, and maybe a couple of recipes. There is very little given about the personal lives of the two men. Four and a half stars.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    When the Savoy Hotel opened in London in the late 1800s, it quickly rose to fame as the most luxurious experience in the world. Well known hotelier Cesar Ritz was hand-chosen for his attention to detail and his devotion to his guests to run this largest and most opulent hotel by financier Richard DOyly Carte. And Ritz then hand chose the finest chef he knew to accompany him, Auguste Escoffier. Ritz ran an impeccable hotel, and Escoffier ran the most organized, professional kitchen that existed When the Savoy Hotel opened in London in the late 1800s, it quickly rose to fame as the most luxurious experience in the world. Well known hotelier Cesar Ritz was hand-chosen for his attention to detail and his devotion to his guests to run this largest and most opulent hotel by financier Richard D’Oyly Carte. And Ritz then hand chose the finest chef he knew to accompany him, Auguste Escoffier. Ritz ran an impeccable hotel, and Escoffier ran the most organized, professional kitchen that existed at that time. In fact, you can still go into any luxury hotel and see the details of perfection that were handed down from Ritz, and you can go into any modern professional kitchen and see the imprint of Escoffier’s pristine attention to detail and organization. Their ideas birthed an industry and brought a level of luxury to the middle class that most people had never been able to experience before. Luke Barr, author of Provence, 1970, is back with another flawlessly researched book that takes a look at a moment in history that changed everything that came after. In Provence, 1970, he showed how American cuisine came to be, and Ritz and Escoffier shows how two men taught us all how to live our best lives, lives where the details make the difference between an average experience and one that make us feel like royalty. With stories of history and scandal, royalty and wannabes, romance and betrayal, Ritz and Escoffier shines a light on a time in history where decadence became a lifestyle and modern luxury became a tangible reality for almost anyone. The pages of this book are filled with lavish dinner parties, rumors of love affairs, scandalous spending, backstabbing, double-crossing, stealing, egotism, entitlement, lawsuits and disgrace. A fascinating look at a unique time in history, Ritz and Escoffier takes you back in time and shows you all the hard work that goes into the extravagance of the hospitality industry from the opening of a hotel to running it like clockwork through all the surprises and challenges that come up during its operation. Luke Barr’s exquisite prose, audiobook melodically narrated by Stephen Rudnicki, brings the city and the time and the hotel to life in a way that makes you feel like you can see the flowers right in front of you and smell the amazing aromas of Escoffier’s kitchen. I know that I will never see the hotel industry the same way. Galleys for Ritz and Escoffier were provided by Crown Publishing through NetGalley, with many thanks, but I bought the audiobook myself, thanks to Audible.

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