The Savoy Crew Under Chef Auguste LaPlanche circa 1965
The Main Kitchen
The Cold Fish Station
The vegetable station 'entremetier'
The roast station
Mr. Trompetto as I remember him.
Chef in the kitchen at the Savoy Hotel in December 1966. The Savoy is a large hotel on The Strand. Designed by T.E. Collcutt it was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte in 1884 next to the Savoy Theatre where he was famous for his Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Cesar Ritz (who later founded the Ritz Hotel) was the first manager and August Escoffier was the first chef whose pots and pans are still kept at the hotel. . In 1965 Silvino Trompetto was appointed as the hotel's first British born Head Chef.
Back In The Day
At The Savoy.
The following photos are from Mike Smith. One of my colleagues at the Savoy at the time.
|Chefs LaPlanche and Trompetto|
I had left home in April of that year and I was just settling in to this new world of foreign languages and strange ways. Nineteen years of age. Not a happy time.
The kitchens here were huge, cavernous and very noisy with lots of activity. Some of the stoves were still run on coal and the place was very hot. Looking back it was a little like the engine room of the Titanic that we see in the pictures. The kitchens dated to 1889 and although good for that time today they would be considered inefficient and wasteful. They have recently been redone I think. Still, it was a great place to learn and I learned a lot of things that are no longer either done nor taught to this day in Hotels.
The list of famous people who stayed in that hotel is mind boggling
This is an old menu from the Savoy Grill. The Savoy had two kitchens; one was the restaurant and one was the grill. The rivalry between the two was heavy. This is a menu from '71 I think and I had long gone. The menus that were there when I was there still had shillings and pence. This one has the currency that came after that.
Amazing to see the prices here and also the old fashioned cuisine. There was no room for imagination or improvisation. Everything had to be done by the book. The guests knew how to eat and they would order things that had to be looked up in the repertoire to know what they were. All that has changed now of course.
My chef in the restaurant kitchen where I worked had worked with Auguste Escoffier when he opened the Savoy; His name was Auguste LaPlanche and he was already an older man when I got there and not very far from retirement. He eventually retired and the chef of the grill was appointed the chef of restaurant kitchen. The restaurant kitchen was the most prestigious of the two for many reasons. All the cabarets were done from the restaurant kitchen as well as all the banquets. There were some very big names performing in the cabaret at the time
The new chef's name was Silvino Trompetto and he was a legend in London. Tall and regal in his white chefs jacket, he cut quite the figure in the Savoy Kitchens. Mr. Trompetto had previously been the chef of the Savoy Grill kitchen which was one floor below the Restaurant Kitchen. He did not get along with Mr LaPlanche and stayed away from his area. He was not the first choice to replace Mr La Planche. A new chef was brought in from France but he died of a heart attack within a few weeks and then Trompetto became Chef des Cuisines. The atmosphere change in the kitchen was immediate. Being lowly commis we it didn't affect us directly but the sous chefs and the chef de parties were under the gun.
The original chef of the Savoy was Escoffier. He was one of the most renowned chefs in the history of the industry before Bocuse came into the picture. and his picture is on the W/W diploma. He was the original Celebrity Chef without the hoopla. He was the Laurence Olivier, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley of the culinary scene .
This was my first step into truly international and sophisticated cuisine after I had left the Gresham. The whole place was very intimidating and very serious except for a few little tricks they used to play with the new and very nervous arrivals. The Queen and Winston Churchill and all the celebrities used to come to The Savoy in those days. It was truly the most famous of all the London hotels.
As soon as someone new started they would be asked to make something which of course made them very nervous because they didn't want to mess up their first day. Little did I know that only very accomplished cooks were allowed to prepare food for the guest. New people were not allowed to until they had learned how to make it in The Savoy.
Anyway, the new fella would be asked to make a dish of some sort and he would proceed to do so hoping no one was watching and that he didn't mess it up. Very nervous indeed. Halfway through the preparation someone would come over and whisper very seriously into his ear "be very careful with that son, it's for the Queen ". This had the desired effect of reducing the person to a nervous wreck and he was was baptised.
This happened to me. The new person from Crumlin cooking for the Queen................. or so I thought, until they started laughing.