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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Old Menu And Photos The Savoy Hotel In London Circa 1965 / Old Menu And Photos

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
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.


grahamer said...

love hearing all the story's Jim from years ago

rita dowling said...

seems it was not long til the nervous chef from Crumlin rose in the ranks!! Have heard stories from the Savoy too, tho never aspired to
cross its threshold, it was too posh!

Dor said...

To get a job in the Savoy in those days must have been quite an achievement. After a glorious record in the Gresham no doubt!

Anonymous said...

I worked there in 1967-69 it was fun and hot , loved it . great memories I was on the fish most of the time

michael smith said...

Hi James
I worked with you in those terrific days. I have lots of photos and I am in some of the photos you posted. Please get in touch
Mike Smith

Matty Bee said...

Fascinating stories! This may sound far fetched...but the 'Arnold Bennett Omelette' was named after my Great Great Une Arnold Bennett! So you can probably understand why I'm so excited to find your blog and see pictures of the kitchen and menu of the Savoy! I have been a chef for over 15 years and originaly born in the UK I now live in NYC and work as a private chef. I wonder if you would remember cooking an omelette for my Great Uncle perhaps!? How amazing you

Anonymous said...

des mc cabe savoy restaurant kitchen 1965.. 66 always remember meat parcels being dropped by string from the butchers window to the street below.

michael smith said...

I remember making many Arnold Bennett omelettes. As I r ember a flat omelette with haddock and a light glaze.
The string out of the window was the German contingent, ready for the weekend meals, as they all got together.
I now live in New Jersey, usa after working in NYC for fourty years and the memories from the Savoy are like yesterday

Mike Smith

michael smith said...

I covered for the night chef for two weeks. The highlight was to be awakened by the floor service waiter around 2am. A club sandwich for Marlon Brando.I was star struck, even though I had to crank up the stove, salamander and it takes around 15 minutes. Then back to sleep on the couch in the river room. Only to be awoken 30minutes later. He wanted another one. NOW, Mr Brando was not my favorite person. Great times

Dudley Walsh said...

What a great story and I am sure there were many like it. The good old days of stars and great things happening among all the hard work.

michael smith said...

One more story. Who knows that the BOB DYLAN classic video of him throwing down cards with his song lyrics to the ground was not filmed in Seedy LA or Detroit but in the alley under the Savoy. On a quiet weekend afternoon upon leaving with a couple of friends. we saw just Dylan, Alan Ginsburg and a cameraman filming . We spoke for a little while with him and went on our way. Maybe 15 years later, I saw the video on TV,I was stunned. Great times

Dudley Walsh said...

Wow ! What a lucky encounter!

Dudley Walsh said...

Michael, I don't know if you got my message but I did a piece on the hotel I was in before the Savoy with the same kind of incidents. It is on the blog if you do a search for " Gresham hotel ".

Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed reading the Savoy Blog, it brought back many memories for myself, I was with Tromps in the restaurant kitchen it was heavy going but very exciting for a young lad, still with coal fire on the fish section . I had the pleasure of cooking for tromps a few nights week about , it was a honour but stressful,the sauce cook in the restaurant was Tony rose and the fish cook was Terry Far , george was in the larder & Ian Ironside was in the pastry, my journey took me too Gleneagles after the Savoy both were great for , I training and hardening cooks for the betterment .

Allan underwood said...

Alan UnderwoodI was an apprentice in the restaurant kitchen 64 to 67 it was a wonderful 3 yearsI will remember the good times we had especially with Julian Martell the premier sous chef he was a wonderful man and very helpful to me as an apprentice after my 3 years the Savoy I worked in Switzerland Paris Germany and Italy if you had trained at the Savoy you could get a job anywhere I am now retired and living in south west France

michael smith said...

Hi Allan
This is Mike Smith circa 1964 through 66. Would need to see a photo but as I remember a blond guy wearing glasses??? We all had great times although conditions, money and such were not so great.Sounds like you did very well and what alot of enjoyment this Blog, set up by James, has been.
I moved to the US and worked in NYC for fourty years and now I am retired in New Jersey, across the river from New York. Three daughters and five grand children later and my years at the Savoy, like yesterday.
Would be great to hear from

Mike Smith

robert stordy said...

Hi All
I did a stint at the Savoy (Restaurant/River room kitchen from 1969 to 71)
Yes it was terrifying to start. I was 18 and left home for the first time (from NW)
Trompetto was maître de cuisines. I also remember Roland (Claridges I think), Jacques Azare(apologies if spelt incorrectly). Smit (German sous chef)
The coal ovens on fish were still there when I arrived.
I remember doing fondant potatoes for a small dinner party for Princess Anne, the sous chef took one look at them about 45mins before service, binned them and said these are not fondant potatoes
I can go on and on remising happy/sad times. Have been back since three times, had a guided tour of the kitchens late 1990's they had been refurbished by then
I now lecture in Culinary Arts at University of Derby
I wonder how many of us are left from the 60/70's days
Anybody remember max Hackett?
Robert Stordy

Dudley Walsh said...

Great to hear from you Robert and I think I remember you. If there is anything you would like me to post on this then please send it to me ; Photos etc. As you can see there is a lot of interest in this post from the Savoy Alumni and I have been in contact with qute a few of them. Feel free to contact me with any questions.
James Walsh

joel said...

Kind a Funny , just crossed this blog , so much good times at the Sauce station with Terry Far , they had restricted the butter consumption , so I went to the Garde Manger, that Son of a Gun Italian Chef had wrapped a chain around it with the lid , and a padlock , terry asked me Frenchy I need butter this sauce taste like ... went to garde manger put the pot on the burner and melted the butter , it created an entire diplomatic incident .... Recall another Time when one of the guy at the Fish station , stoned out of his mind , got 12c trout on the frying pan the fire was curling in , Graham , Graham your trout , Huh , your trout , Flip the pan in the stove that was the last coal fired one , went to the microphone , fish butcher fish butcher 12 trout ,12 trout rush , Paolo came in " fun Guy from Tessino " , hey burned the fish again , no Bloody hell ! Miguel the sous chef I need those trout now .....Hezard the Second came around , what's the hold , OH IT WAS FUN ...... Just reconnected with Michael Clack in California , He own a nice Restaurant , As for myself I am now out of the industry too old .....Anyone has the Christmas pudding recipe , for private use , I have 2 of them but very old 60 years old can
t make sense . Joel Rambaud

Anonymous said...

Dear Joel, I worked with Terry Far on the fish , then it was Tony rose on sauce , McMillan on the veg , there was a Italian guy on the soup the opposite side of the fish stove . Is Terry still kicking ? I left the Savoy for the Glen in 1970 , Ian Ironside was the pastry chef , Jacques Aza ,Oppenheimer Rolland , Zancasani, Geberto were the sous chefs with one more . we had fun on that old stove , with microphones and all. Mr Newman was still kicking back then , daily rations off beer and lemonade
Thanks for your story Ian Hall McKenzie (haggis)