Last year the miserable people in charge of Haringey Council refused to give Bob Dylan, who has a house there, the Freedom of their Borough. I’ve no doubt that they wouldn’t have hesitated to give that honour to their former resident Ho Chi Minh, who lived there whilst working as a pastry chef for Auguste Escoffier. And I doubt they’d have had much time for Escoffier, because he was immensely rich. In fact he was the richest and most eminent chef who has ever lived. He made his fortune firstly at the Savoy hotel where, together with his partner Cesar Ritz, he earned a million pounds a year in today’s money. He and Ritz (as Paul Levy has revealed) also had a nice side-line in taking commissions from suppliers, which brought in a further £1.5m a year. After they were caught they signed confessions but they were too well connected to be prosecuted and they went off to run a rival hotel, the Carlton, which took most of the Savoy’s business.
Escoffier’s skulduggery is of no relevance today- indeed no one would be aware of it if Levy hadn’t unearthed the confessions- and he deserves to be honoured because of his guiding principle- “Surtout fait simples”- “Above all, keep it simple”. This is as good a rule in cooking as it is in life, and as it is the basis of the Slow Life, we doff our chef’s hat to him.