Alexis Bénoit Soyer (4 February 1810 – 5 August 1858) was a French celebrity chef who became the most celebrated cook in Victorian England. The first chef to achieve widespread fame and celebrity status was Alexis Soyer. Born in France, Soyer became the most celebrated cook in early Victorian England. In 1837, he became chef de cuisine at the Reform Club in London, where he designed the kitchens with Charles Barry. When Queen Victoria was crowned on 28 June 1838, he prepared a breakfast for 2,000 people at the Club. Soyer’s eponymous Lamb Cutlets Reform are still on the Club menu. His exceptional cooking skills were combined with an excellent eye to marketing and self-publicity to ensure that he molded the public’s perception of him. His image was even successfully used as a trademark to market a range of bottled sauces produced by Crosse and Blackwell.
Soyer also invented many popular new recipes and foods – he produced and marketed a popular drink made of a variety of fruits mixed with aerated water, which he called ‘Soyer’s Nectar Soda Water’. At the Reform Club, he instituted many innovations including cooking with gas, refrigerators cooled by cold water, and ovens with adjustable temperatures. His kitchens were so famous that they were opened for conducted tours.
He was also well known for his philanthropy. During the Great Irish Famine in April 1847, he implemented a network of soup kitchensto feed the poor. His “famine soup” was served to thousands of the poor for free. Soyer wrote a number of best selling books about cooking, one of them even selling over a quarter of a million copies. His 1854 book A Shilling Cookery for the People was a recipe book for ordinary people who could not afford elaborate kitchen utensils or large amounts of exotic ingredients. Other works included The Gastronomic Regenerator (1846), The modern Housewife or ménagère (1849) and Soyer’s Culinary Campaign (1857).