With the BITE Sussex Regency Banquet just weeks away, Nick Mosley looks back at the Royal Pavilion’s celebrity chef Carême who’s legacy has inspired the menu for this one-off feast.
Marie-Antoine (Antonin) Carême (1784-1833) – renowned as the ‘King of Chefs and Chef of Kings’ – was the leading light in the world of gastronomy during the early 19th century. His remarkable talent and contributions to the culinary arts continue to inspire chefs to this day.
A notable chapter in his illustrious career was his work at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton where he left an indelible and enduring mark on the European food landscape.
Antonin Carême’s association with the Royal Pavilion began in 1816 when he was appointed as the personal chef to the Prince Regent – later to become King George IV – who had a deep passion for lavish and extravagant feasts.
The Royal Pavilion – an architectural marvel designed by John Nash – served as the summer residence of the Prince Regent. Its oriental-inspired design and opulent interiors provided the perfect canvas for Carême’s artistry.
Carême’s craft at the Royal Pavilion was nothing short of spectacular. He created sumptuous feasts that captivated the taste buds and dazzled the eyes of the royal guests. His skills were characterised by his meticulous attention to detail, grandiose presentation and innovative techniques. His creations were not merely meals; they were works of art.
One of Carême’s most notable contributions at the Royal Pavilion was his mastery of the art of pastry. He revolutionised pastry-making, elevating it to a level of sophistication that was previously unseen. He made intricate designs and engineered structures using sugar and marzipan, creating towering centre-pieces that adorned the royal banquets. These edible masterpieces often replicated iconic buildings and landmarks, showcasing Carême’s extraordinary talent and imagination.
Carême’s culinary prowess extended way beyond pastries. He crafted elaborate menus that featured a plethora of exquisite dishes, each meticulously prepared and artistically presented. He drew inspiration from various cuisines – including the French and English kitchens alongside exotic flavours from across the globe.
At the Royal Pavilion, Carême’s menus catered to the Prince Regent’s gregarious entertaining and discerning palate, featuring a harmonious balance of flavours, textures and aromas. His food not only delighted the taste buds of the royal guests but also contributed to the establishment of a distinct culinary identity for the Prince Regent. The lavish feasts became synonymous with the opulence and grandeur of the Royal Pavilion, earning it a reputation as a gastronomic destination for royalty, diplomats, politicians and the wider great-and-good.
Carême’s most famous meal was the extravagant feast he prepared for Tsar Alexander I of Russia in 1817. The menu included over 100 dishes, embodying Carême’s culinary mastery and intricate designs. It was a grand display; truly a feast fit for a king.
Carême’s influence spread far and wide. His cookery books – including ‘Le Cuisinier Parisien’ and ‘L’Art de la Cuisine Française au Dix-Neuvième Siècle’ – became highly sought-after guides for aspiring chefs. These books contained his recipes, techniques and insights into the art of cooking, cementing his legacy as one of the most influential figures in culinary history.
Today, the Royal Pavilion stands as a testament to Carême’s culinary legacy. While the building itself remains an architectural marvel, its Carême’s influence on the culinary traditions associated with the Pavilion that continues to inspire and awe visitors. His creative vision and dedication to the craft of cooking have left an enduring impact on the world of gastronomy; a mantle taken up by his natural heir, chef Georges Auguste Escoffier.
It is to Carême’s recipes that the chefs for the BITE Sussex Regency Banquet have turned, taking inspiration from his technique and style whilst adapting for our modern palates.
Master pâtissier Julien Plumart (The Great British Bake Off: The Professionals), award-winning gelato maestro Seb Cole, chef Simon Mckenzie and chef Sabu Joseph have joined forces to present a five course fine dining menu that will be matched with either a flight of wines presented by Henry Butler or a tea-based soda flight from Helen Taggart of MDTEA.
Hosted in the stunning surrounds of the Pavilion’s Banqueting Room on Saturday 30 September, guests can expect a once-in-a-life time experience. Organised by BITE Sussex, a ‘silent action’ of hospitality and wider food and drink experiences will be presented by Allison Ferns of BBC Sussex in aid of the Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust.
For more information about the event and tickets visit www.bitesussex.com/events