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Chef with red wine glass

Henri Charpentier

(1880 - 1961)

Henri Charpentier was a French chef who became John D. Rockefeller's chef in the U.S. He undoubtedly popularized the flaming dessertcrepes Suzette’ in America. Some sources, probably erroneously, attribute the actual creation of the dish to him either at the Cafe de Paris in Monte Carlo or at La Maison Francaise in Rockefeller Center.

I received the following email from Graham A. Ashdown, which expands on the life of Henri Charpentier.

Henri Charpentier is the father of my 1st cousin, once removed.

Henri was born in 1880 and came to the US in the early 1900's with his wife. He died in 1961 in Redondo Beach, California.

He was a world famous chef and inventor of Crepe Suzette. In preparing the sweet for the soon to be King Edward VII he spoiled the sauce (burnt it -- flambéed it) and as a recovery named it after the only little girl present with eighteen men that day. He called it Crepe Princesse. The Prince asked that he rename it for the little girl, Princess Suzanne (daughter of Edward, Prince of Wales, who was the son of Queen Victoria), and so it became Crepe Suzette.

Apprenticeship as Master Chef at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, Maxims and the Tour d'Argent in Paris, The Cafe Royale and Savoy in London, the Metropole in Moscow, The Vier Jahresszeiten in Munich, the Quirinale and Belle Meuniere in Rome.

He was a student of Escoffier, Jean Camous (step brother), and Cesar Ritz (famous Hotelier).

Guests to his restaurant(s) included: King Edward VII, Queen Margherita of Italy, "Diamond Jim" Brady, King Leopold of Belgium, J. P. Morgan, Theodore Roosevelt, William K. Vanderbelt, Sarah Bernhardt, David Belasco, George Jen Nathan, John D. Rockefeller Sr., Lillian Russell, Rudyard Kipling, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, Florenz Ziegfeld, Marshals Joffre & Foch, "Jimmy" Walker (NYC Mayor), Bing Crosby, John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman, Lauritz Melchior, and, Ethel Barrymore.

Privately printed book in 1945 distributed to a select circle of friends originally titled "Food and Finesse -- The Brides Bible". Reprinted by Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers Inc. in 1970 entitled "The Henri Charpentier Cookbook". Standard Book Number -- 8431-0083. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number -- 67-26534.

I trust this was of some interest.
Graham A. Ashdown



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