Life and Times
Charles Ranhofer was chef at the famous Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York, and author of a popular cookbook titled “The Epicurean.”
Chronology of his life
- 1836 — Charles was born in St-Denis, France. His grandfather had been a cook; his father owned a restaurant.
- 1848 — At the age of twelve, he was apprenticed to a pastry-maker in Paris.
- 1851 — At the age of fifteen, he completed his apprenticeship, and became chief baker at a restaurant in Paris.
- 1852 — At the age of sixteen, Charles was part of a team cooking for the “Prince d’Alsace d’Hénin-Liétard.”
- 1856 — At the age of twenty, he made his way to America, working first for the Russian consul in New York.
- 1860 — He returned to France in the winter to cook at the Tuileries Palace for balls organized by Napoleon III.
- 1861 — Charles returned to New York. He worked first for a restaurant there called “Maison Dorée” in Union Square but in 1862 was hired away by Lorenzo Delmonico to work at Delmonico’s East 14th Street restaurant. Ranhofer is reported to have said in that interview that while Lorenzo managed the business aspects, he wanted control of all the rest (as recounted by Lately Thomas in “Delmonico’s: a Century of Splendor.” Houghton Mifflin. 1967.)
- 1876 — When the East 14th Street Delmonico’s moved to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 26th Street in November 1876, Ranhofer didn’t make the move: a few months prior, he left instead for France, to run the Hotel Americain in Paris.
- 1879 — Charles returned to New York, and to Delmonico’s, to run their 26th Street restaurant.
- 1894 — Charles published his book, The Epicurean.
- 1898 — Charles assisted the transfer of operations from the 26th Street restaurant (which had been seen as the “central kitchen”) to the new Delmonico’s on 44th Street. He stopped working in the same year. A man named “M. Grevillet” is named Ranhofer’s successor as “chef de cuisine.”
- 1899 — Charles died of kidney disease in October 1899. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.
- Ranhofer, Charles, The Epicurean. A Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art Including Table and Wine Service, How to Prepare and Cook Dishes, an Index for Marketing, a Great Variety of Bills of Fare for Breakfasts, Luncheons, Dinners, Suppers, Ambigus, Buffets, etc., and a Selection of Interesting Bills of Fare of Delmonico’s, from 1862 to 1894. Making a Franco-American Culinary Encyclopedia. New York: Charles Ranhofer, Publisher, 1894.
Access Charles Ranhofer’s Epicurean online.
Frontspiece of The Epicurean (1894)]
 The Prince is not otherwise named, but possibly was Joseph de Riquet (1808 – 1865), who was a plenipotentiary minister of the French government and a member of the Chamber of Representatives. His family, the Caramans, had inherited the Hénin-Liétard family’s goods, titles and possessions when that family died out in 1804.