Cover image for Life à la Henri : being the memories of Henri Charpentier
Life à la Henri : being the memories of Henri Charpentier
Charpentier, Henri, 1880-1961.
Modern Library paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Modern Library, 2001.
Physical Description:
xviii, 246 pages ; 21 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library TX649.C45 A3 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Chronicles the life of celebrity chef Henri Charpentier in the early twentieth century, from his job as a bellboy to owner of his New York City restaurants.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Samuel Chamberlain's (Phineas Beck's pseudonym) Clementine in the Kitchen helped introduce Americans to the kitchen practices of their French cook in Massachusetts during the forties. The first famous French chef to ply his trade successfully in the U.S, Henri Charpentier, gave the world such renowned dishes as Crepes Suzettes. He recalls his upbringing and eventual culinary stardom in Life ala Henri.



Excerpt Should you hear me say that when I was a boy of ten a proud English duchess was my friend, that queens spoke tenderly to me, that kings acknowledged my salutations, that I shared the private chapel benedictions of an empress, that another empress, my favorite, in her boudoir traded bonbons for my point of view, what would you think? Especially if I told you that in half a year after I was ten I had made a fortune in gold coins, what then? Certainly you would think that such a boasting fellow must be a Gascon, which I am not at all; I am of Nice and we Niçois do not boast. The simple explanation is that in 1890 while I was still a tiny Frenchman I became a page boy in the Hotel Cap Martin, an establishment of the Riviera which I now suspect was truly more agreeable to European royalty than their various palaces. I was born in Nice in 1880 but I was reared in Contes, a village some leagues distant. If I am moved to begin my memoirs with the earliest souvenirs of my existence it is because ten thousand times in my career it has been revealed to me that when ladies or gentlemen want to know how a particular dish is created they want details of the beginning. Consequently when they ask me to disclose the secrets of Lobster Henri, Special, I tell everything which has significance. What I am going to do now, I who invented Crêpes Suzette for the prince who became Edward VII, is to give the recipe for myself, for Henri Charpentier. When I first became aware of myself I was not concerned because I bore one name and the other children of the family to which I was attached bore another. Most of the time I was simply Henri; today I remain Henri. Nevertheless I was a Charpentier and the others were called Camous. I will explain this now without regard to the chronology of my own discoveries among these facts. My mother was young when I was born; nineteen, a tender creature and herself excellently born. A marquise and a countess had contributed to her inheritance of the exquisite qualities of France. My father was a lawyer and no longer young. Their marriage had taken place despite the protestations of my mother's people, especially of her father. Consequently when, a few days after my birth, my father was killed by a fall from a horse, she was alone, entirely, and utterly grief-stricken. In that time ladies in France were somewhat reluctant to nurse their children; that was vanity; but in the case of my mother the reluctance became common sense. Had she nursed me then certainly I would have grown up, if at all, to be a melancholy fellow, one nourished on tears. So, when I was only a few days old I was placed in the arms of one who had milk for me. She was the coachman's wife, that tender being, my maman nourrice who to me became and remains the most precious of all living creatures. What a theme awaits the poet who shall sing of restaurateurs! I believe that; but always I shall think that no matter to what heights the art of preparing food shall be elevated by the chefs of extreme talent and inspiration, nothing they may create in food equals in sublimity those original meals offered by the mother to the infant. By that simple transfer of milk to my small sack of a stomach I really became the son of her who reared me. But suppose at that premier breakfast you had been permitted to regard, as did Papa Camous, the fuzzy, bobbing head of myself. Suppose you had witnessed the avidity of toothless, infant gums. Then, you too would have said: "This devouring person is a morsel of cannibal. He would eat his maman nourrice." Copyright © 2001 Henri Charpentier and Boyden Sparkes. All rights reserved.

Google Preview