Antonin Carême is not known to the general public but it is nevertheless this street urchin who invented pastry !
The inventor of the éclair
You don’t think of it when tasting a chocolate éclair, a nun, or a profiterole, but the one who invented all these pastries spent his childhood sleeping in the streets of Paris… With the exception of a handful of great chefs and historians, his name no longer tells us much today… And yet, he was the great French cook of the late 18th and early 19th centuries . He is considered the first great pastry chef in the history of gastronomy: he modernized choux pastry, invented the éclair and the cakes. He created the vol au vent, he was the cook of Talleyrand, for more than 10 years, he officiated at the courts of England and Russia and for the Baron and Baroness de Rotschild.
Born in a poor family
Antonin Carême was born into a large and poor family, in a district of the suburbs of Paris. When his mother died, his father took him to dinner in a tavern, on the outskirts of Paris, and decided to abandon him, in the streets of Paris, feeling unable to support himself but conscious of the intellectual faculties and the resourcefulness of his son. He will indeed end up getting out of it… After a few years doing the dishes, peeling the vegetables and scaling the fish, Antonin, 16, is hired as a kitchen boy at the pastry chef Bailly, one of the most famous houses in Paris. . His skills and his helping hand were quickly noticed, to the point that within a month, he was appointed first tourier, in charge of making puff pastry. Under the orders of Jean Avice, who carries out orders for the Ministry of External Affairs, Antonin Carême finds himself making “extraordinaries”, specific orders for receptions and meals organized by the institution. This is how he rubs shoulders with other cooks and learns, noting everything in notebooks when the evening comes.
The first chef of the history
Then he entered the service of Minister Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, who had an open table in the Saint-Germain district of Paris. Between the diplomat and the cook, a real bond is forged. Talleyrand encourages Carême to develop refined food, based on vegetables and seasonal products.
Carême becomes a real star in the kitchen. He is the first to call himself Chef -, and publishes many books that become bestsellers.
When the Empire collapses, Lent is requested everywhere. He became a real nomadic cook: at the court of Tsar Alexander I, with the English prince regent, future George IV, then in Vienna near the Austrian emperor François I and finally for a time directed the kitchens of the banker James de Rothschild. , in Paris. At Lord Steward, in Austria, he invented the toque, a more decent headgear than the cotton cap previously worn by cooks…