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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel is based upon the life of Auguste Escoffier, a chef to the rich, powerful and influential. Told in the form of memoirs, written when Escoffier is an elderly man in Monte Carlo where his wife Delphine is dying and shortly before the outbreak of WWII, they tell the story of a career and a marriage. Married for fifty five years, the Escoffier's have spent much of their life apart. Delphine both a poet and a woman who raised their family while Escoffier worked his magic in kitchens across the world - here are the names of famous hotels, such as the Ritz and the Savoy, and menu's created for the great transatlantic liners of the day, including Titanic. It is also the story of Escoffier's love for Sarah Bernhardt and how Delphine coped with both her husband's absence and his love for another woman.

This really is a treat of a novel, ideal to curl up with on winter evenings. Forget the celebrity chefs of today, Escoffier was a man who really knew the rich and famous of his time, who cooked for royalty, the influential and the rich and famous. After winning his wife in a billiards game with her father, there are moving scenes where he teaches her about his world. His kitchen was his life and it was a place of great sensuality. As Delphine lays, elderly and ill, she wants her husband to create a dish for her. This novel jumps everywhere, skipping through time, memories and dishes, all lovingly and beautifully described. A real treat, slow, moving and memorable, it is a novel that I am sure I will return to.
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on 24 June 2012
The first thing to remember when reading WHITE TRUFFLES IN WINTER by N.M. Kelby is that while the three central characters are "real" the story itself is the work of the author's rather vivid imagination. In it she conjures up a tale of food, love, and the love of food. Her imaginative journey into the life of food-obsessed chef, Auguste Escoffier, his unconventionally liberated wife, poet Delphine Daffis, and the "other woman" in his life - the bold, free-spirited Sarah Bernhardt is as delectable to one's reading palate as the dishes created by this amazing chef who pioneered French cuisine.

Being neither a gourmet cook nor an expert in fine dining, I was not personally familiar with the name Auguste Escoffier but discovered that I was, however, familiar with some of the dishes he created like Peach Melba and Cherries Jubilee (created for Queen Victoria) as well as some of the famous places where he plied his talent like The Ritz, The Carlton and The Savoy hotels.

The tale is basically told in retrospect by an aged Escoffier and combines the story of his unconventional love life with unusual recipes, related in a most uncommon manner. At times the recipes almost overwhelm the story as Kelby chooses to demonstrate Escoffier's compulsion for creating the new and unusual in an effusive and highly romanticized fashion. For this reader at least, some of this descriptive writing was a little "over the top" and flowery, however, it did convey the message that Escoffier could never really be as loving and devoted to any woman as he was to his first true love, food for which he abandoned family, friends and homeland.

Author Kelby presents an interesting take on the life of Escoffier and his many contributions to the art of cooking. Possibly his most important contribution can be appreciated by folks such as Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsey, and their ilk since it was Escoffier who raised the bar, so to speak, in elevating the "cook" from the status of lowly servant to "chef", a respected and financially rewarding profession in addition to introducing the organized discipline necessary to successful restaurant kitchen management. Overall, this is a book that makes every reader consider their own relationship with food and whether it could every reach the level of obsession experienced by Escoffier.

One last question: Is the title of the book and it's placement in the novel a metaphor for the initial beauty and excitement of youth which we try in vain to preserve from the inevitable passing of time and of the ultimate decay and death which awaits us all?- 3 ½ stars
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Escoffier - world famous chef - won his wife Delphine in a billiard game. In spite of this unpromising but romantic start to their married life they do stay married and died within a fortnight of each other. But in between they spent many years apart with Escoffier working at the Savoy in London and Delphine remaining in France to bring up their children. The book starts with Delphine seriously ill and wanting Escoffier to create a dish in her honour. Throughout his life he has created many dishes in honour of many beautiful and famous men and women but he has never created one names after his wife.

The story of Escoffier's life is told in flashbacks. His relationship with the legendary Sarah Bernhardt dominated his life and Sabine, his current assistant, bears a resemblance to Sarah. I did enjoy this book though I found the chronology difficult to follow at times. The descriptions of famous meals are fascinating reading. I thought the characters were well drawn and I had a huge amount of sympathy for Delphine and for Sabine.

What comes over very well is Escoffier's love affair with food. Every dish had to be perfect but many used simple fresh ingredients and relied on quality for the flavour. I found the relationship between Escoffier and Delphine convincing and it was clear they meant a lot to each other in spite of the huge amount of time they spent apart. This is a book to sink into and savour and the momentous events of the first thirty years of the twentieth century provide a tense backdrop to the food reminding the reader that whatever is going on in the world people still need to eat.
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VINE VOICEon 16 April 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Interwoven with the superbly researched story of Escoffier, master chef, master sensualist, master lover, are the famous recipes he used to seduce and ultimately to influence the luxuriousness of at least two of the world's most famous kitchens.

I can imagine Ms Kelby had one finger on a gastronomic thesaurus as the language of this novel is as pleasingly sensual as the food and epoch it evokes. What is it about food that even reading about it can inspire the flavours and scents of those chaotic kitchens?

The book is not only full of these sensory delights but also the colours conjuring the late 19th century early 20th century's treasures and riches. "Yellow as pineapples" muses Escoffier at the sight of La Bernhardt magical "greenhouse" of a studio filled with decadent guests. The air, itself, screams a blend of demi monde and Art Nouveau.

This is a truly extraordinary adventure of a book, at times, way over the top in its indulgence ~ just like the menus cooked for the delight of the "crazy for food" clients at the Ritz.

Seduction through food is hardly new as we know from Petronius and the ancients but are the same matters true of modern cuisine with its health consciousness and celebrity visibility?

From keeping Paris fed during the siege (did they really serve elephant?) to the culinery hints that sprinkle this delightful meringue of a tale any reader will find something to delight them as on a well documented menu card from a distant and glorious past
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Here's an interesting take on French cooking - a biographical look at the man who popularized it, way back in the late 1800s. He's the man who popularized dining out for the wealthy set, and was chef at some of Europe's finest hotels. He is what one could call the original Master Chef.

The story is an imagined retrospective, set at a time when the elderly chef is facing the approaching death of his wife. His life, oddly spent mostly away from his wife, with the other love, Sandra Bernhardt, makes him contradictory figure, but his life in food is where the real meat and potatoes of the story are, so to speak. His encounters with the powerful, the royal and the famous, and his work in the restaurants of iconic hotels fill his life. He was, inevitably, a man obsessed with food. In 1903, he wrote Le Guide Culinaire, which has ever since been a culinary bible, still used today to teach chefs.

The story revealed here is one of food, of love, and the combination of the two. It is a cosy diversion from today's hot-heated televisions chefs; a delicious look at a time and a world of decadence and excellence sadly gone.
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on 18 February 2013
This book is an astounding achievement from a writer very much on top of her game.

It is basically a complex study of obsession and how that both damns and redeems the obsessive - in this case the French master chef Escoffier (and to a lesser extent Sarah Bernhardt).

Escoffier is devoted to the development of dining and raising the creation of fine food from mere cookery to something like an art form. And he is prepared to sacrifice much to achieve this.

The tragedy comes from the fact that unlike many obssesives he is perfectly intelligent enough to know the damage he causes.

The book is full of erudition and insight. The scene between the chef and Gambetta over the soul of France is almost worth the read alone. The recipes are worked seemlessly into the story and give Escoffier a chance to explain his motives as he is usally instructing someone with considerably less expertise.

This is one of the best books publsihed over the last few years and if the author does not garnish a fair set of prizes there is no justice.
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VINE VOICEon 13 January 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
White Truffles in Winter is a complex novel in that it attempts to weave together a number of different strands that made up the life of Auguste Escoffier, the pioneer of fine French cuisine. Escoffier is married and his wife is dying so part of the novel is set when they are the elderly and Escoffier is teaching the young maid to cook. Another storyline deals with his lifelong love for the actress Sarah Bernhardt and his extra-marital affair with her. There is also his work life and his travels around the world, his involvement in war and his acts of charity.

Beyond the name, I knew very little of Escoffier so it was interesting to read about this complex man torn by his love for two women. The descriptions of food, predominantly fois gras, truffles and champagne, are also incredible.

The main problem with the novel was that I felt that nothing gelled together; there are a couple of very significant events that have a big build-up and then don't lead to anything and the strands never really pull together. There are terrific moments which show great promise, such as Madame Escoiffier's bargaining with the maid, Sabine, but they are never fully developed which is incredibly frustrating. Having read a little about Sarah Bernhardt and her incredible eccentricity (she slept ina coffin and carried a pet chameleon around with her) it was also disappointing that she seemed a little flat; if this novel was a true reflection it was difficult to see how she maintained so many lovers and how she had Escoffier under her spell.

I liked the novel, I just didn't love it and was left with the feeling that the author needed to have more confidence in their own ability! I'll watch for future efforts with interest.
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VINE VOICEon 1 November 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm an unshelled fan of the tern for 'period romance'. The Jane Austen to Downton Abbey period offer authors so many opportunities to take the skeleton of a true story and create a narrative around it that hook into your imagination. White Truffles in Winter is no exception however unusually takes the life of a famous chef Auguste Escoffier, his wife Delphine and a shared love Sarah as the foundation.

Told from perspective of an aged Escoffier recounting his life, the writing style was both fluid and engaging if sometimes losing impact when departing into detail of recipes or if anyone remembers 'Lloyd Grossman' Masterchef dramatic food descriptions. What can I add to the already great reviews already on Amazon - highly recommended for whiling away a Winter evening with a glass of wine and an open fire.
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VINE VOICEon 18 June 2016
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a novel based on the life of the famous chef Augustes Escoffier

The bare bones of the story are as follows. Escoffier's real fame began when he worked in the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo employed by Cesar Ritz then they both moved to the Savoy in London. Escoffier transformed French cuisine and kitchens and also made it acceptable for high class women to dine in public. Some of these women were famous in their time and Escoffier named dishes after them for example Peche Melba for the Australian singer, Nellie Melba and Fraises a la Sarah Bernhardt an actress to whom he was devoted. He was married but his wife Delphine and he lived separately for many years but died within days of each other in the same house.
He and Ritz were sacked by the Savoy but they went on to create the Ritz hotel in Paris then the Carlton in London. In 1913 he met Kaiser Wilhelm11 aboard the SS Imperator. Escoffier was responsible for dinner for well over a hundred German diginitaries and apparently after this achievement he was named Emperor of chefs by the Kaiser.
The book focuses on Escoffier's luscious food and over the top culinary experiences in general.I got a bit tired of hearing again and again of dishes studded with truffles and he seemed to liberally use fois gras,washed down of course with champagne. There was one rather unpleasant description of Escoffier's experience of eating an ortolan (apparently a tiny bird) whole and when I read about the rush of scalding blood into his throat I had to skip to the next paragraph.
As someone who has always been interested in Escoffier I found this book an easy to read and fascinating insight into the man.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 October 2015
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Kelby's 'white truffles in winter' weaves the professional and private memoirs of renowned French chef Escoffier with the sad last few weeks of his and his wife's lives on Monte Carlo in a palatial Vila but utterly broke. Interwoven are recipes, menus and other captivating tidbits that act as a scrapbook of escoffiers memories and tell us of the grand opulence of dining and celebrity in the late Victorian era into the Edwardian period.

What struck me reading this book is that I haven't felt this moved to eat particular written foods and cook since reading Joanne Harris' food trilogy particularly Five quarters of the Orange as in both food is a living being, part of the landscape and a Living force, a sensuality rather than a background task or plot device to set a development. This book will make you hunger, not just for the food which is described in evocative sensual detail, but for the passion and skill to recreate it.
Escoffiers passion for food sings out of the pages in full vivid colour and his passion touches every one from the devotion and loyalty of his former staff, his aged incapacitated wife insisting on making the family a simple but beloved egg dish, to his children being able to tell when food is made with love and skill simply from looking at it.
I read that Kelby was inspired to write about Escoffier from her childhood with her French Jewish mother who escaped the Nazis but was shot in the process and never let go of her love and devotion to Proper French cookery so much that her Escoffier books were sacred and forbidden to her daughter.
I already knew many of the titbits of information about Escoffier such as he was the person who first requested the industrial canning of tomatoes, originated the kitchen hierarchy system, introduced stock cubes to kitchens and the creator of many dishes such as Peach Melba after Dame Nellie Melba and Fraises Sarah for the other woman in our book Sarah Bernhardt.
But despite knowing much about the achievements, this gave life and personality to the man to whom modern cooking and restaurants owe so much to, Kelby takes events and a little fiction and makes it come alive and build empathy with the passionate Escoffier as he balances his memoirs between his great loves, Delphine, Sarah and most of all food.

Highly recommended!
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