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A Culinary Campaign

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Alexis Soyer is known as the great cook of the Reform Club and author of a number of cookery books who single-handedly transformed Army catering which in the mid-nineteenth century was truly horrific. This is the first reprint of Soyer's extremely rare book, first published in 1857, about his time in the Crimean War. Soyer, a Frenchman by birth who worked his entire life in the UK, went to the front at his own expense. He was a celebrity chef with a social conscience having also fed starving Irish during the Great Famine. His witty first-hand account is informative and vivid and conveys the conviction and diplomatic skills that enabled him to get things done. For instance, he reformed army food and developed the field stove which bears his name was which was still being used in modified form during the Gulf War. He became a friend of Florence Nightingale and used his contacts among the major military figures of the day to transform conditions for the ordinary soldier. Sadly, he himself never recovered from his time in the Crimea and died two years after the war ended.

The Army has plans to restore his tomb in Kensal Green, a belated gesture towards a man to whom it owes so much. The Guild of Food Writers have awarded the 2007 prize to Relish by Ruth Cowen, a full-scale biography of Alexis Soyer.

Published: Jan 1, 1995