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Publisher's Summary

In a tale replete with scandal and opulence, Luke Barr, author of the New York Times best-selling Provence, 1970, transports readers to turn-of-the-century London to discover how celebrated hotelier César Ritz and famed chef Auguste Escoffier joined forces at the Savoy Hotel to spawn the modern luxury hotel and restaurant, where women and American Jews mingled with British high society, signaling a new social order and the rise of the middle class.

In early August 1889, César 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, which included Auguste Escoffier, the chef de cuisine known for his elevated, original dishes. The result was a hotel and restaurant like no one had ever experienced, run in often mysterious and always extravagant ways - which created quite a scandal once exposed. 

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 riches and gauche industrialists convened in London to show off their wealth. In their collaboration at the still celebrated Savoy Hotel, where they welcomed loyal and sometimes salacious clients, such as Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt, Escoffier created the modern kitchen brigade and codified French cuisine for the ages in his seminal Le Guide Culinaire, which remains in print today, and Ritz, whose name continues to grace the finest hotels across the world, created the world's first luxury hotel. The pair also ruffled more than a few feathers in the process. Fine dining would never be the same - or more intriguing.

  • Best Cookbooks and Food Books of 2018 - Huffington Post
©2018 Luke Barr (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“In this winningly-told story, Luke Barr explores the advent of the luxe life through the saga of hotelier Cesar Ritz and chef August Escoffier, whose partnership brought us not only the adjective 'ritzy', itself no small testament, but also such once-novel phenomena as hotel rooms with their own bathrooms, and innovative dishes like peach Melba. It’s a charming tale of success, scandal, and redemption - complete with an unexpected villain. Trigger alert: It will make you hungry, and a little nostalgic for bygone times.” (Erik Larson, number one New York Times best-selling author of Dead Wake and Devil in the White City)

"Ritz and Escoffier, Luke Barr’s entertaining narrative history, reads like a novel…Mr. Barr has done a fine job evoking fin-de-siecle London and the characters of the two odd men who played such a pivotal role in that exhilarating time.” (Wall Street Journal)

"When you eat a Peach Melba, or drink a Grand Marnier, you have these men to thank; they coined the names, then popularised the concoctions. Ritz himself became not merely a byword for luxury but the actual word for it." (The Economist)

“Barr’s prose is lively and his sourcing impeccable...a thoroughly enjoyable look into a defining moment of culinary history.” (Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Ritz and Escoffier

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Like Cesar Ritz, a real dandy

What did you love best about Ritz and Escoffier?

This book falls in the category of narrative non-fiction and in this case we get two very interesting biographies plus a social history of the well-to-do in Europe in the 1890's. It reads like a novel. My favorite parts were the extreme menus Escoffier would create for royalty and the nouveau riche, and Ritz spending days creating a lampshade (electric lights were new) to best complement a lady's complexion. There are all kinds of interesting historical nuggets in this book. The narration is superb and the pace of the book is well suited for listening.

12 people found this helpful

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What a time to be alive!

This was a very interesting origin story to the man, the hotel, the legend that is Ritz. A man with the foresight and dedication to invent luxury hospitality. The book does a tremendous job of describing the scenes, food, and events that built the brand of Ritx. Interesting to see how many of these concepts stay true today. People complain about the showiness of the instagram age - this guy invented the concept of going out to see and be seen. Flashy consumption was invented here, modern technology has just expanded the distribution.

Also, I found it interesting to learn about other brand and taste creators that were in the same scene at the same time. Fun read.

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magnificent

astounding, the history and story of this piece is made alive by a great performance.

4 people found this helpful

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Fascinating tale...

...of the changes to society brought on by the energized brilliance and focus of two inspired dreamers of conspicuous consumption. I liked the clear and precise tone of narrator. The meals and accommodations sounded fantastic.

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Fascinating story!

I loved this book! Very well written, with excellent narration. It “reads” like a novel. I felt as if I was there...a pampered guest at the Savoy or the Ritz.

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AMAZING Read

Absolutely loved this book. If you love food and travel, this is a MUST read!

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  • KB
  • 06-18-19

interesting, though slightly dry

I enjoyed listening to this tale of the man behind the name Ritz. Stefan Rudnicki has an interesting voice that lent itself well to the subject matter. I found it was best at 1.1x speed.

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Interesante pero un poco aburrido

Se fue en detalles y anécdotas y falto un poco más de historia. Esperaba un poco más

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A Bygone Era

A wonder filled history of the birth of modern age service industry theory and delivery.

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  • Davina
  • 09-23-20

Fascinating book, narration quite irritating.

Definitely worth listening to as the story is so interesting. Although narration annoying try and get past it!

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  • Millsy
  • 10-26-18

Interesting account

Though at times I found this book a tad boring, on the whole it was really enjoyable and one I would recommend if you are interested in Ritz and Escoffier.