With the imminent closing of The Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City next month, I have been reflecting on the profound influence this restaurant has had on the North American dining scene and restaurant industry since its opening in 1959. The Four Seasons Restaurant was heralded as the first modern American restaurant (post World War II) to promote North American regional ingredients and seasonally driven menus—a quality that is lauded in today’s food culture. Historically, however, another great New York City restaurant that opened in 1823 was the so-called “Godfather” of this trend—Delmonico’s.
By the middle of the 19th century, Delmonico’s was considered to be the greatest restaurant in the United States. To put it in perspective: the way we think of Thomas Keller’s French Laundry today is the way Americans spoke of Delmonico’s back then. The key date in Delmonico’s history was 1862, when a great French chef from Alsace named Charles Ranhofer took over Delmonico’s kitchen. No discussion of North American regional cuisine, including the recent farm-to-table and locavore trends in menu concept and execution, are complete without a discussion of the impact of Chef Ranhofer and his revered cookbook, The Epicurean.
Read on to learn about the influence of Chef Ranhofer and The Epicurean on the culinary world as we know it.