I’ve always been interested how some dishes got their names. Most of them are pretty obvious – Pasta Florentine, Wiener schnitzel or California roll, clearly named after the geographical place of origin. Others (and these by far have much more interesting stories) are named after people who invented them or influenced their creation.
I might well have named this post “A list of dishes named after famous people” (not “People named after dishes” – there will be a separate post about this one). I did not however, because I wanted to put the emphasis on the circumstances surrounding the dish creation, and not just on the person they are related to. Yes, I know everybody knows the story of Caesar salad or Dessert Pavlova (still included) but not everyone knows that one of the most famous pizzas (that’s is Margherita) is also named after a famous historical person.
The origins of a dish are often as interesting as the food itself. Read on to find the stories of some of the famous and classic dishes, most of which you probably have already tried.
This rich dish, made with beef, mushrooms and lots of sour cream, is named for Count Pavel Aleksandrovich Stroganov. The Russian military commander and statesman, Lieutenant General, and commanded an infantry division in Napoleonic Wars, didn’t crate the recipe himself, of course. His chef presented it in a culinary contest in St. Petersburg; it entered in the cookbooks and become famous with the name of the General.
The name of this dish, that typically involves a filet of beef coated with foie gras and wrapped in puff pastry, is somehow connected with Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. There is no evidence the Duke actually ever tasted it, but there are few theories of how the dish was named. The simplest – his chef created it; the more patriotic one – a British chef renamed a typical French dish during the Napoleonic wars, in which the Duke was involved; and the really cute one – due to its physical resemblance, the dish is named after the brown shiny military boots, which are named after the Duke of Wellington.
There is just one story related to the invention of this salad: in the 1920s, Caesar Cardini, owner of an Italian restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, invented a salad of romaine lettuce, anchovies, coddled egg, lemon juice, shaved Parmesan cheese, and garlic flavoured croutons tossed with garlic vinaigrette flavoured with Worcester sauce. It was the beginning of the Prohibition in the United States, and because Tijuana was on the other side of the border, it became a very popular place, and so the Caesar salad. Originally it was prepared in front of clients and was eaten with hands. The most discussed question regarding Caesar salad is related to anchovies. Well, the original recipe did not include anchovies.
Named for painter Vittore Carpaccio, apparently due to the similarity of the colour of the thinly sliced raw beef to the red hue Carpaccio was known for. Nowadays the concept covers all kinds of raw meat or fish, thinly sliced, marinated or not.
A cut and a recipe for steak named for Vicomte François René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848), French writer and diplomat, who served Napoleon as an ambassador and Louis XVIII as Secretary of State. His chef Montinireil is thought to have created the dish around 1822 while Chateaubriand was ambassador to England. This dish is usually only offered as a serving for two, as there is only enough meat in the center of the average fillet for two portions.
This dessert made of a meringue baked until crisp, filled with whipped cream and fruit is named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. In 1926 the ballet dancer visited Australia and New Zealand during her world tour. Since then is the dispute between the two countries where exactly the delicacy inspired by the prima ballerina was created.
This is another famous dish with unconfirmed history of creation, but with many versions of how it’s got its name. The most popular version is that it was created at Delmonico’s Restaurant, in New York City, in response to a complaint that the menu never changed. Regulars at the fancy restaurant Mr. and Mrs. Le Grand Benedict asked for something new. To oblige, the chef served up eggs on ham served on an English muffin and covered in Hollandaise sauce. Benedict is a fairly common name, and because the dish became extremely popular very quickly, at least a dozen residents of New York, bearing that surname, were claiming their place in the history of culinary. But most probably the dish existed before adopting its name.
Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, and her husband, King Umberto, were traveling in Naples during the late 19th century when Chef Raffaele Esposito made them three specialty pizzas at his restaurant. Their favorite was the mozzarella, tomato and basil, created to imitate the colors of the Italian flag, so Esposito named the pie after the queen Margherita.
Created at the New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s in 1899, the dish is made of butter, spinach, and seasonings spread on oysters on the half shell, then baked. It was named Oysters Rockefeller not because there is some direct connection with John D. Rockefeller, but by analogy: the richness of the sauce being related to the richest American at that time.
Sometimes called the greatest chef who ever lived, the French chef Auguste Escoffier created a dessert of poached peach halves, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sauce in honour of Australian opera singer Nellie Melba. The Frenchman worked at the Ritz Hotel in London in the early 1900s, the period when Melba was the star of Covent Garden Opera House. She was a popular figure of that time and was even appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1918 for her charity work during World War I, and was elevated to Dame Grand Cross of the British Empire. Known for her demanding and temperamental behaviour, the diva asked the chef to prepare her something ”light and special”, and received both – the dessert and the Melba toast. The later is thin bread slices heated in a low oven until golden brown and very fragile.
This chocolate cake is one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties. The history of the Sacher Torte begins in 1832, when Prince Metternich charged his personal chef with creating a special dessert for several important guests. The head chef having taken ill, the task fell to the sixteen-year-old Franz Sacher, then an apprentice in his second year of training in Metternich’s kitchen. Sacher completed his training as a chef and later in his career opened an upper class delicatessen and winery in Vienna.
Sacher’s eldest son Eduard perfected his father’s recipe and developed the torte into its current form. In 1876 Eduard established Hotel Sacher and since then the cake has been served there until present days.
Known in many countries as “Russian salad” (also in Bulgaria), the original version of the salad was invented in the 1860s by Lucien Olivier, French chef of the Hermitage restaurant, one of Moscow’s most celebrated restaurants. Olivier’s salad quickly became immensely popular with Hermitage regulars, and became the restaurant’s signature dish.
John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718–1792) did not invent the sandwich but it popular. His title name was applied to it in 1760s, after he frequently called for the easily-handled food while entertaining friends, so their card games then were not interrupted by the need for forks and knives.
Named after Stephine Tatin and Caroline Tatin, the two sisters who ran the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte Beuvron, France. Stephine allegedly invented the upside-down tart accidentally in the fall of 1898. The story says that one day she started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. Smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. After turning out the upside down tart, she was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert.
In 1896, Oscar Tschirky, the famous maître d’hôtel of Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, created a salad of apples, celery, and mayonnaise. Immediately popular, the new dish was called Waldorf Salad. Chopped walnuts later became an ingredient.