Illustration by Joda, @jonydaga
From 1816 to 1817, The Royal Pavilion’s Great Kitchen was graced by the presence of famed French chef Marie Antonin Carême.
Born in Paris in the late eighteenth century and abandoned aged eight during the French Revolution, Carême cut his teeth in the food trade as a kitchen boy in a chop house. In 1798, he became an apprentice to patissier Sylvain Bailly, who recognised Carême’s flair for cooking, becoming a mentor to the boy. Inspired, Carême left his master and set up his own shop, the Patisserie de la Rue de la Paix, which he ran until 1813.
Carême was known for his ‘pièces montées’, fruits and cakes stacked vertiginously high to make for elaborate centrepieces – some of which stood over four feet high and up to six feet across. ‘Pastry,’ he once said, ‘is the highest form of architecture’. In a prolific career, Carême fed both Emperor Napoleon and the Tsar of Russia. He is often held responsible for the creation of the white chef’s hat.
The Prince Regent benefitted from Carême’s presence, if a little too much. ‘Carême,’ George whined, ‘You will make me eat myself to death. I want to eat everything you place under my nose, it is all too tempting.’ Indeed, when the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia visited the Pavilion, the menu boasted 36 mains and 32 side dishes.
Carême left Brighton, exasperated by the fog and the smog. He died on January 12th, 1833, aged 49. His untimely death has been attributed to years of working over a coal-fuelled stove.