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Monday, 22 July 2013

Photo of Escoffier's Kitchen at the Savoy Hotel, London, 1893

     This is not medieval or early modern, but it is related to Escoffier. I was looking through the internet for pictures to include in our new Stratford Chef School "Gastronomy I" textbook, and came across this photograph on the English Heritage website:

"Interior view in the kitchen at the Savoy Hotel", London, 1893.
    The full caption reads: "Interior view in the kitchen at the Savoy Hotel. The Savoy Hotel was designed by the architect Thomas Edward Collcutt, and was opened in 1889." The photo was taken by late nineteenth-century architectural/industrial/interior photographer, H. Bedford Lemere, which may explain the absence of humans; it was created primarily as an architectural study of the kitchen itself. English Heritage acquired the the Bedford Lemere collection (c. 100,000 photographs) and have made it available to the public at their archive in Swindon, Wiltshire.

   The main significance to me, though, was the date and location. Escoffier was the chef of the Savoy from 1890-1898. This is a picture of the Savoy Hotel's kitchens three years into Escoffier's tenure as chef!
  In the photo we can see a large cast-iron stove in the foreground, workbenches in the background, and what seem to be steamers and warmers around the perimeter of the kitchen. In the opposite corner from the photographer one can just make out what seems to be a roasting hearth (spit-turning mechanisms are mounted above while a large warming cabinet covers the fire - an example can be seen in the second and third photos in this article about the kitchens at Petworth House, West Sussex).

   Looking at the floor we can see the footprints in the sand that dusted the floor of most nineteenth professional kitchens; its purpose was to absorb spills and give traction.

   This is the only picture of the Savoy's kitchen that is hosted on the English Heritage website, though it is possible that there are more in the Bedford Lemere collection. There is no mention of Escoffier on the English Heritage website; I wonder if they are aware?
By: Ryan Whibbs 

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