Louis XIV: A visit that killed the chef


You are an event planner for a high ranking noble and are told that the King of France and his 600 plus courtiers are coming for a visit. You are now responsible for all the entertainment and food for these guests and you only have 15 days to prepare.

Such was the case in 1671 when Louis XIV decided to visit the Prince de Conde at the Chateau of Chantilly. Preparations began immediately as large orders of food, wine, and other necessities were made. In charge of this all was Francois Vatel, a man whose name is well recognized to this day by all modern day cooks and chefs.

Fifteen days might seem like enough time to prepare for a family reunion these days, but in the time of the great “Sun King” who demanded the very best of everything, the task was very daunting. Not only was the king demanding that all his courtiers be housed and fed, but they also needed to be entertained. The visit was to last three days. The first day presented one of many calamities for Vatel. Aside from other mishaps during the day, he had organized a grand fireworks display to distract the king and nobles, but unfortunately a fog rolled in and made it impossible to see. An embarrassment for Vatel, the following day he began showing signs of visible anguish.

And thus his fate was sealed on the second day. Vatel began it by doing inventory. When he got to the fish order, he asked the cart man with the fish in exasperation whether this was all of the fish. The cart man who assumed that Vatel was referring to only the fish in his cart and not the others that were on the road behind him replied that “this is all”. Vatel was crest-fallen. Nothing seemed to be going as planned for the man who was held in such high esteem. Unable to take the stress any longer, Vatel retired to his room and stabbed himself with his sword.

So if ever you are feeling a little stressed about a dinner party or event that you are organizing, just remember the scenario of Francois Vatel. At least you don’t have to cook for the King of France and his entire court!

Harrison Hunt
Harrison Hunt


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.