How Escoffier’s favorite pupil helped build the standards of culinary excellence

Today is the 133rd birthday of Chef Charles Scotto, one of the founders and first president of the American Culinary Federation. We took a look back on the beginnings of his career in this piece from the January/February 2019 issue of the National Culinary Review. 

In the late 1800s, legendary French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer Auguste Escoffier was setting up kitchens and recruiting chefs for such legendary hotels as the Ritz in Paris and the Carlton in London. It was during this time he met a young chef by the name of Charles Scotto.

Scotto was born in 1887 in Monte Carlo, where he began his career in the pastry department at the Casino de Monte-Carlo. In 1900 he went to England, where he continued to work and learn.

Escoffier and Scotto seated together at Casino Dieppe in 1927
Escoffier and Scotto • image courtesy of Robert Hendry,

“At the turn of the century Scotto had been a commis chef in the brigade at the Savoy Hotel London where Escoffier was Maitre Chef de Cuisine,” writes collector Robert Hendry on his website, “Scotto helped Escoffier all [through] his professional life with planning and opening many new kitchens and restaurants. … He represented and helped Escoffier in the setting up and the opening of many of his other ventures over the years, including the famous Casino Dieppe.”

It was at the Casino Dieppe in France in 1927 that the photograph above was taken. Escoffier is in the dark suit, seated in the middle, with Scotto on the left. “While photographs of Escoffier are quite common, those of Scotto are scarce and signed images of both chefs together are rare in the extreme,” Hendry writes.

Charles Scotto in his toque and chef whites
Chef Charles Scotto • image courtesy of Chef Rico DiFronzo, Epicurean Club of Boston

While we don’t know much else about the conditions which surround the photo, we do know that during the time it was taken, Escoffier had retired from the kitchen and Scotto was head chef at the Ambassador Hotel in New York. Scotto went on to serve as president of the Vatel Club of New York and the Chefs de Cuisine Association before becoming one of the founding members of the American Culinary Federation in 1929.

Upon his death in 1937, the New York Times referred to Scotto as Escoffier’s “favorite pupil.”

“[He] gave to his art a personal touch which won him friends in gourmet circles the world over… [he was] the perfect picture of a chef, with his white starched hat cocked slightly over one ear.”

Click here to read the December 1938 Culinary Review article covering Scotto’s memorial.

MarApr2019NCR_cover_loresTo read the full March/April 2019 issue of the National Culinary Reviewsubscribe to the print version today (now with included digital access).