Luke Barr transports readers to turn-of-the-century London and Paris 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.
Ritz & Escoffier, Luke Barr’s entertaining narrative history, reads like a novel (complete with cliff hangers and descriptions of the characters’ private thoughts) ... Mr. Barr has an eye for comic detail ... Mr. Barr has done a fine job evoking fin-de-siècle London and the characters of the two odd men who played such a pivotal role in that exhilarating time.
Luke Barr almost makes good on the promise of his subtitle to describe 'the rise of the leisure class.' He does give the reader a glimpse of how mobile (and slippery) Edwardian social life was, so that anybody with money could dine at the Savoy. Barr is especially sensitive to, and frequently mentions, the anti-Semites who resented the part wealthy Jews had in the creation of this new, democratic leisure class ... In general, Barr has trouble with British titles (which are important to telling the story of a pair of rogues whose livelihood depended on snobbery), listing 'lords, barons, and earls' even though barons and earls are ipso facto lords ... Barr is excellent on food except when he gives the ingredients of ratatouille but calls the dish 'cassoulet.' He understands the history and culinary properties of ingredients and recipes, however ... The real failing of this entertaining book, though, is the novelization of the narrative: Barr constantly tells us, with no source cited, what is going on in his characters’ heads.
...entertaining culinary history ... Barr’s prose is lively and his sourcing impeccable, even if he takes liberties in ascribing thoughts and feelings to his characters. Barr offers a thoroughly enjoyable look into a defining moment of culinary history.