This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The rise of the restaurant is nearly always alike - semi-accidental. It might seem a curious line of argument to pursue, but it is more than likely it could be proven that of those who "open a restaurant" nineteen out of twenty fail. There seems to be a special adaptation to the business required, a love of it, and a kind of talent not often to be had for money. The first great Parisian restaurants, which attracted world-wide notice and imitators in all countries have been entioned so often - Beauvilliers' - Very's - Robert's - that one is loth to touch again upon a subject so old, yet all the mention is of them in their prime, In their success; nobody knows how they began, nor by what accident of patronage their originators were started. Here is a modern, a very recent instance, which is an illustration that will suit nearly every case and shows that restaurateurs are "born, not made." It is of one Joseph - he has another name, but as Joseph only he is noted in the papeis - who had a small restaurant somewhere in Paris, "Joseph's restaurant," and became the favorite of an appreciative few.
He had some specialties, some special ways of pleasing his patrons which we may not know - they were his special points of adaptation which made him successful and, perhaps, were generally of too small dimensions to be described, they were characteristics. But one point was of sufficient saliency to be taken hold of; something he did which became the talk of gastronomical Paris. What was it? What could one obscure man in a small restaurant do that made all the gilded and glittering establishments of old standing envious? He served as nobody else could, Canard Sauvage, Sauce au Sang - Wild Duck with Blood Sauce - roast wild duck with its natural gravy. It is hard to avoid writing cynically about such a matter, but we will try. Some of these things which catch the passing fashion are so exceeding small, the admiration of them seems asinine; yet somebody must uphold and magnify them - the restaurateur must. To tell how it was done is but a parody on another old story of how some wondrous cook electrified a court and charmed all Christendom by the genius shown in cooking two beefsteaks and squeezing the gravy out of one to pour over the other which was for the prince.
M. Joseph roasted his ducks very rare, then cut the breasts in slices upon a chafing dish (a metal dish with an alcohol lamp under, to keep it at cooking heat), the gravy from the rare-cooked slices flowing freely. All the rest of the carcass he squeezed dry to obtain the juice for the slices of breast of duck, and he let all finish cooking in the dish, the gravy of course thickening itself, and served the meat so in its own juices. It may be he added flavorings and seasonings, the reporters do not say, and if so they were but incidental. Canard Sauvage, Sauce au Sang wa6 the dish. And let the host of carvers of "Roast Beef Rare" at the merchants' lunch houses, chop houses, restaurants, dining rooms, cafe's and hotels remember it when they see the "natural gravy" flow into the dish of the hot carving table and cook and become thick there - that is the sauce au sang, the blood gravy which, when drawn from wild ducks, a large number of Parisian gourmets went into ecstacies over and made M. Joseph famous.
Next, a wealthy American - one of the very wealthiest - was taken by a party of friends to M. Joseph's, not necessarily to partake of canard sauvage, but to patronize the pet restaurateur of the day, and they Commissioned him to prepare a dinner for them of his own choosing, which he did; a thoroughly simple dinner of roast quail and a few other viands, with which they were so delighted - because it was prepared by the only M. Joseph - that they ordered the same for the next day and for several succeeding days. After they were gone their ways a great Parisian can secured the services of M. Joseph, just as an operatic manager secures a star performer, and he officiated at a silver chafing dish with a silver duck-squeezer; and, later and latest, he was enticed away from the cafe by the very wealthy citizen of the United States by the offer of a very large salary, and is now in this country in private service. Such is, in nearly every case, the history of the rise of the high-priced, fashionable restaurant - there is a natural adaptation of a cook and an enthusiastic love of his profession; then the patronage of wealthy admirers and it is an accomplished fact. But where is the restaurant in the case of M. Joseph? Most probably it is coming.
We are not writing of the restaurant of the last century. M. Joseph is of to-day; his restaurant may come tomorrow. Some morning the papers will •ay: "Delmonico is likely to meet with a formidable competitor shortly, in a magnificent restaurant after the Parisian fashion, to be opened by the $10,000 M.Joseph, the famous ex-chef to Mr. Vanderbilt," etc.,, etc They all aspire to it. Did not President Arthur's chef open a restaurant? Did not Presidents Hayes' and Garfield's steward open a restaurant? What became of them afterwards does not belong to the story. When the hero and heroine of a novel get married the interest ceases and the story ends. Likewise, every man thinks to get to keeping a high-class restaurant is heaven - until he has a chance to try it.