Conversations with the Masters: Chef Andre Soltner

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Andre Soltner, at 78, is recognized internationally as the first “superstar” chef and a Master Chef of the highest honors. He left home at a very young age to begin an apprenticeship that would take him on a lifelong journey and have him in the company of kings, presidents and princes.

His acclaimed, Lutece, was the beginning of haute-cuisine. Known for his wit and a welcoming personality, he single handedly turned Lutece into a destination must for the world’s Who’s Who. He was the King. On the day Lutece closed the, unusually affectionate, New York Times ran an Obituary for the beloved restaurant on the front page proclaiming an end of an era.

 

John Mariani, columnist for Esquire, wrote this in 2004: “Those familiar with Mr. Soltner’s enormous range always asked him to cook for them, which is what my wife and I did every anniversary for twenty years when Lutece was our special, romantic treat. Never in all those years did Soltner ever serve us the same dish twice, and none was ever on the printed menu. My notes from those years were teem with asterisks and exclamation points denoting wonderful, unforgettable dishes.”

 

Mr. Soltner and I spoke extensively, on his life, love of cuisine and his background. He is kind and generous, giving of his time, engaging, with a wonderful story. This is part one of a two part article.

 

Janet Walker: Before the age of 15 you were studying classic French cuisine. What was the inspiration that led someone so young into the kitchen and changed him so dramatically that it became a career?  

 

Andre Soltner: My inspiration when I was a kid was my mother. Like many kids, my mother was quite a good home cook. And I liked that. At this time we had to be at school until we were fourteen. At fourteen we stopped school. So what do you do? I liked to cook. So, I said to my parents “I‘d like to be a Chef.” 

 

My father, was looking for a job and, found a job as an apprentice. I was about 14 at this time and the apprenticeship was three years. Your parents, your father signed you up for three years. It started with a three months trial and after the three months you had a contract for three years. When my father signed the contract the chef said, “This boy belongs to me now.” And he meant it.

 

I stayed at the apprenticeship for three years. I liked it very much. It was a tough period for young person. I was not home anymore. We started to learn little by little. We started to peel potatoes. After a month or two they put us on the stove and then preparation and how to bone the meat. Then, it was over. I did my three years. I  liked it very much. It was a tough, tough, time believe me and still, I liked it very much. Then, I knew my goal was to become a chef.  

 

A chef at this time, we’re talking 1948, when I started my apprenticeship. At this time chef’s were not superstars or not stars at all. Chef’s were not really recognized in restaurants. The one who was recognized was the Matri’d or owner.  Chef’s were in the kitchen and not recognized.

 

My chef, nobody knew him. I knew that he was a very good chef even as a young boy I knew how good he was at cooking. I learned with him and with the others. There was a small brigade there were seven chef’s in the kitchen and I learned from them this time. After the three years at this time, there was an exam. I did very well. At the exam, I was first in the region. From there I went out to different restaurants.  I went to Switzerland and worked.  I picked up a little from everywhere and that’s how you build up culinary.

 

I had to do my military service which I refused to be in the kitchen because in the military the food was terrible. After that I went to Paris and started as a Chef de partie.In a brigade, Chef de partie, is in charge of one station. I was hired in Paris as a Chef de partieI stayed there five years. After three years I became the Sous-chef.The last year and a half; I was the head chef. At this time, I had ten chef’s and two pastry chef. One of my pastry chef’s came to New York, he emigrated to New York and then he met Andre Surmain who planned to open a restaurant in New York.

 

He told him he knew a young chef that would be good if he opened the restaurant. The gentleman, Andre Surmain, got in touch with me in Paris. He came to the restaurant where I was the Chef and had dinner. After dinner he asked to speak with the chef. He brought me greetings from the Pastry Chef and he told me the real reason he came here is that I wanted  to meet me outside of the restaurant.  We had a meeting the next day and he told me that he would like to a open restaurant, Lutece, and convinced me to come over.  I was then 28 and that was in 1961.

 

We opened Lutece. After two years at Lutece I already wanted to leave. My boss said, “No, no way you cannot leave. We’ll to do much better if you stay. I’ll take you as a partner.” So I became partner at Lutece, that was 1963.  By 1971 our partnership was a little bumpy. I planned maybe to leave. He said, ‘No, no, you don’t leave. I’m burned out with this work.  You don’t leave. I’ll leave.’ In 1972 I became sole partner. So that’s the story. We went until 1994 when I sold our store.

 

Janet Walker: What are some of your most memorable moments as owner/chef of Lutece? Can you remember the first evening? What was it filled with?

 

Andre Soltner: I think every day was really memorable. We had really the whole world as customers. Everybody came. We were very exclusive. We had only twenty-nine tables. We refused a lot of people every day. We had presidents, ambassadors, movie stars. Everybody. The most memorable? We had President Nixon, The Kennedy family, all the movie stars. Every day was really memorable.

 

The first evening when we opened in 1961. My boss decided never to use any thing frozen or canned, so it was quite expensive. When I say expensive, today it doesn’t sound expensive but then it was very expensive. We had a lunch, when we opened, of $8.50. It was such a scandal! It was so expensive that we reduced the price to $6.50. In the beginning, we were not busy because we were not known. We did about ten to twelve lunches; ten to twelve dinners a day. It was very, very, very slow.

 

After about five months, I was the not owner yet, I was the chef. We did so little business the owner disappeared he didn’t know what to do any more. He just disappeared. It happens that a customer ask me to do a party on Long Island and, I remember very well, he gave me three thousand dollars. I paid, with three thousand dollars, the suppliers. After four or five days the owner came back and was surprised to find that Lutece was still opened. He was very surprised. 

 

From there on, little by little, we had more customers, little more customers, more customers. It went better. Those are my most memorable moments in the beginning.

 

Janet Walker: On the day restaurant closed?

Andre Soltner: The restaurant didn’t close. I sold it to Ark Restaurants. They had about twenty to twenty-five restaurants in New York. The President of Ark, [Mike Weinstein] came once and he was interested in buying Lutece. By then, I was ready. By then I was 64, I had Lutece for 34 years. My wife was a little tired so I said, “Okay.” When that was announced it was a big boom in every newspapers. On the last day I had the restaurant every customer from all over wanted the reservations. We only had 29 tables. So we had all our customers our old customers that came back. It was very sad day. The New York Times was there and did an article and that was the last day.

 

Eric Asimov, of The New York Times wrote in 2004 at the closing of Lutece “Mr. Soltner's presence  . . .had a magnetic effect on the legions of regular customers. ''There was something so genuine about it when Soltner was there,'' said Judith Jones, the longtime editor at Knopf, who recalled dining at Lutèce in the 1960's with James Beard. ''He was always present and came out to greet you and knew people's tastes. And yet it was extremely refined; it wasn't a bistro.''

 

My interview, Conversations with the Masters: Andre Soltner, continues in Part II as we talk more about his life, love of cuisine, teaching and the making of a “superstar” chef.

 

For information on the French Culinary Institute: www.frenchculinary.com

For French Culinary Institute  amateur cooking classes: http://www.internationalculinarycenter.com

 

ковролин
грузчики киев
yarema.ua

 

Haute Tease

  • Under Fire: Journalists In Combat – A Brutally Accurate Documentary from Martyn Burke

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    UNDER FIRE: JOURNALISTS IN COMBAT, a brutally accurate documentary from novelist and Director Martyn Burke, chronicles the aftermath of War Correspondents as they cope with psychological trauma sustained on the front lines. 

     
  • Hightown Pirates Release their Debut Album, Dry and High, on Strike Back Records

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    We're kicking off the weekend with the debut album from celebrated London ensemble Hightown Pirates, which has so far had a huge response. Hightown Pirates have included with their debut album Dry and High stunning artwork by Pete Doherty.

     
  • The Ambrose Hotel Santa Monica Review - Mastering Boutique Hospitality

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    There's something about a boutique hotel; perhaps the stylish upscale accommodations, the uniquely personalized service, the charming, unexpected touches whatever the allure when I'm in Santa Monica, California there is only one hotel for me, The Ambrose Hotel Santa Monica.

     
  • Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominations Announced; $75,000 In Grants To Be Awarded To Filmmakers

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, have announced the Spirit Awards Nominations, with aspects of 44 films vying for the highly-coveted artists award, will be awarded live February 25, 2017.  

  • LUXE Sunset Boulevard: Exquisitely Opulent and Simply Elegant

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    LUXE Sunset Boulevard compound, a hidden tranquil sanctuary, provides an escape, through the lushly landscaped gardens, soundproofing or magic, from the cacophony of the world outside.

Crime

  • People Exclusive: Husband of Murdered Texas Fitness Instructor Shares Theory on Who Killed His Wife: 'It Had to Be Someone She Knew'

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Brandon Bevers, the husband of a Texas fitness instructor who was found dead inside a church last month just before she was to teach an early morning class, believes his wife knew her killer.

     
  • Man Throws Child Off Manhattan Skyscraper; Commits Suicide

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    A Brooklyn man, who was allegedly in a custody dispute, committed suicide after throwing his three year old son off the roof of a luxury high rise located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

     
  • Central Park Five Settles Decade Long Civil Suit

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Central Park Five, found guilty in a sham trial for the vicious sexual assault and attempted murder of a white investment banker jogging in Central Park in spring 1989, have settled a decade long civil suit, for $40 million, with New York City.

     
  • Breaking: Judge Orders All Cash Bonds on New Mexico Child Killers

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    In the first court appearance since their arrest on the murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, a New Mexico Judge has ordered bond set on all three at 1M all cash for Michelle Marten, Fabian Gonzales and Jessica Kelly.

     
  • Sandy Hook Massacre: The Funeral Procession

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The funeral procession of tiny caskets filled with the hopes, dreams and futures that were shattered when a lone gunman shot his way into the safety of Sandy Hook Elementary School have ended.

Theatre, Music, Books

  • San Diego Jazz Fest Features Traditional Jazz, Swing, Boogie Woogie, Rockabilly, Gospel, and Ragtime

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    San Diego, California, For Immedite Release - The San Diego Jazz Fest takes place November 26-November 30 and will feature over thirty bands and guest artists from across the U.S. playing for dancing and listening in seven venues.

     
  • Something Rotten Review – Raucous Surprises, a Roaring Good Time

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Something Rotten!, Broadway’s newest musical, is so fun it's hard to say for sure who was having a better time at the St. James Theater the other night, the audience or the actors and musicians on stage.  

     
  • Plug Research Releases the Highly Anticipated Coultrains Jungle Mumbo Jumbo Project

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    On April 23rd, appreciators of soul, jazz & beat music alike rejoice as Coultrain releases his long-awaited new project, Jungle Mumbo Jumbo. Perhaps best known for his work as one half of Hawthorne Headhunters (alongside Black Spade), or as the once lead singer of Waajeed's Platinum Pied Pipers - this release marks Train's first proper solo album on a label

     
  • Seven Continents Book Review - The World At Your Fingertips

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Seven Continents, from Schiffer Publishing, brings together an unforgettable fifteen year collection of photography amassed through personal travel by Dr. Mohan Bhasker, of unique and remarkable imagery, the expected and the unexpected captures, across each continent.

     
  • HL London: Mick Jones Opens Library; Releases Limited Edition Instrumental Album

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Mick Jones of The Clash, one of the most established and respected figures in British pop music, has opened his Rock and Roll Public Library as part of the 56th Venice Biannale releasing a very limited edition of up tempo instrumentals called 'Ex Libris'.