Who the world's first celebrity chef?

Long before Julia Child and Emeril Lagasse, Antonin Carême gained international fame, by cooking for kings and writing cookbooks that brought haute cuisine into 19th-century homes.

Carême was known for placing self-portraits in his cookbooks. In 1822, he used one (right) to display his original designs for chefs' uniforms: a clean white coat and hat, or toque blanche, which can be worn loose or made to stand tall with a piece of cardboard. Today’s chef’s uniform remains virtually the same.
Bridgeman/ACI

From restaurant empires to countless cookbooks to cooking shows, celebrity chefs are everywhere in the modern world. Many credit television with their invention; while TV may have boosted the visibility of celebrity chefs, it did not invent them: 19th-century France did.

In the decades following the French Revolution, Antonin Carême built the world’s first culinary empire—with shops, catering for royalty, and best-selling cookbooks. He published his first one in 1815, a combination of the encyclopedic and practical that exemplified his organized approach to cooking. It was the first comprehensive guide to the preparation of many classics of the French repertoire. Like modern-day professional chefs, he combined the roles of artist, scholar, and scientist, all generously garnished with self-promotion.

Carême is best remembered today, however, for his brilliant pastries in the form of buildings and exotic landscapes made of spun sugar and almond paste, creations called pièces montées or extraordinaires.

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