Author(s): Luke Barr
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, along with Auguste Escoffier, the chef de cuisine known for his elevated, original dishes. The two created a hotel and restaurant like no one had ever experienced, in often mysterious and always extravagant ways, where British high society mingled with American Jews and women. Barr 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 riche and gauche industrialists convened in London to show off their wealth. In their collaboration at the still celebrated Savoy Hotel, the pair welcomed loyal and sometimes salacious clients, such as Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt; Escoffier created the modern kitchen brigade and codified French cuisine in his seminal Le Guide culinaire, which remains in print today; and Ritz, whose name continues to grace the finest hotels, created the world's first luxury hotel. The pair also ruffled more than a few feathers. Fine dining and luxury travel would never be the same--or more intriguing.