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Savoy Fare : Or would savoir-faire be a more fitting description for this man and his cuisine?

April 13, 1989|JOAN DRAKE | Times Staff Writer

In 1889 Richard D'Oyly Carte opened a hotel between the Strand and River Thames that was unlike any other that had ever been built in London. Rising over the ruins of the 13th-Century Palace of Savoy, its seven stories were the first in the city to be constructed of concrete and steel with electricity supplied by its own generating station and a private artesian well supplying soft water.

Other extravagances included the 67 bathrooms, elevators panelled in Japanese red lacquer and speaking-tubes that enabled communications between floors. And to eliminate the embarrassment of tipping, an all-in tariff was introduced with no hidden extras.

It took some effort, but D'Oyly Carte persuaded Cesar Ritz, at that time the world's premier hotelier, to manage his new hotel. When Ritz moved to London, he brought a support team that included the world famous chef Auguste Escoffier. Under the direction of Escoffier (who refused to speak English, lived alone in the hotel and worked an 18-hour day) the Savoy became world renowned for its cuisine.

"The Savoy Food and Drink Book" (Salem House Publishers, 1988: $29.95) marks the centenary of this distinguished hotel, still famous for its fine dining. Today the hotel's 88 chefs are headed by Anton Edelmann, who speaks almost flawless English, lives with his family an hour's drive from the hotel and has cut his work day down to 16 hours.

Edelmann first came to the Savoy from his native Germany in 1971. After a year of training, he left to work in hotels and restaurants on the continent for a decade, then returned as maitre chef des cuisines in 1982 at the unprecedented age of 29.

The surprisingly informal Edelmann, with his Don Johnson-"Miami Vice" image, absolutely exudes energy. On a recent visit to The Times Test Kitchen he talked about his first project after returning to the Savoy--the redesign and rebuilding of the hotel's kitchens.

A temporary kitchen had to be built, literally overnight, so there would be no interruption in service. Then the original Escoffier ovens were mothballed after 90 years of service and replaced by French custom-made gas stoves, Swiss boilers,

American air-conditioning and Welsh floor tiles. The total cost was about $5 million.

What the new kitchens did not include, however, were any freezers. "Freezers are so often used as dustbins," says Edelmann. "There are also very few machines because I believe everything in a kitchen should be done by hand."

With the kitchen in place, Edelmann set about revamping the menus. However, when one regular patron became so enraged that he marched right into the kitchen and gave Edelmann a piece of his mind, the pace was slowed and traditional favorites were retained. That same patron still comes to the Savoy for lunch every weekday and the two

are now friends.

A surprising 90% of the Savoy's dining clientele are English and many of them, like the patron just described, arrive daily and expect to be seated at the same table. "Sometimes one of them forgets to tell us he or she is going on vacation, and the table stands empty. If they return a week or two later and someone else is seated there, they get very upset," said Edelmann.

Between the restaurants, seven private dining rooms and three banquet rooms, the Savoy serves 1,400 meals each day. Edelmann has a penchant for quality and freshness and uses local English produce whenever possible, Scotch beef and Welsh lamb. Butter and eggs are imported from France, veal from the Netherlands.

Experienced cooks who enjoy spending time in the kitchen will enjoy preparing recipes from "The Savoy Food and Drink Book." They come directly from the hotel's kitchens, and although the conversion from metric sometimes results in less than standard measurements, those we tested worked well and the finished products were well worth the effort.

It should be noted that because these are restaurant recipes, a sub-recipe for pastry or sauce often yields more than is needed for the main recipe. These supplemental recipes are found in the helpful section on basic recipes and preparation techniques. There is also an informative section on vegetable accompaniments and garnishes.

The outstanding photography throughout the book and historical information drawn from the hotel archives make this as much a book for the coffeetable as for the kitchen.

GATEAU DE CAROTTES ET GRUYERE

(Carrot Gateau With Gruyere)

1 3/4 cups packed grated carrots

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cup chopped, peeled potato

1/2 cup finely shredded Gruyere

1 1/2 eggs, beaten

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

Flour

4 1/2 teaspoons sugar

12 baby carrots, peeled and trimmed

12 baby turnips, peeled and trimmed

7 tablespoons Vegetable Stock

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Tomato Coulis

4 sprigs basil

Saute grated carrots in half of butter about 4 minutes. Boil potato, drain and press through fine strainer. Combine sauteed carrots, potato, Gruyere and eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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