Music is Chef Blank's favorite metaphor. As he invokes comparisons of kitchen preparations to conducting a symphony and of chefs to musicians, Blank leaves no trace of doubt about who wields the baton in Deux Chemineés’ kitchen. “We cooks,” he has said,

have a different purpose than do diners at a table: we are the creators and keepers of endpoints. Just as a violinist playing Mozart needs and uses a totally distinct set of sensorial awareness than does an average person sitting in the audience….Chefs should use all five of their senses to compose, create, execute, adjust and titrate as they work. Accordingly, a chef’s memory must be keener and more directed than is the memory of a diner, for that memory holds the key to structuring a great symphony…

Each year Chef Blank’s love of music culminates in a fundraising dinner for the Philadelphia Singers. These Great Composer dinners feature menus that might have been enjoyed by Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin, Verdi and others. After determining the food preferences and habits of a composer from manuscripts, diaries and personal papers in special collections, Blank then uses his own library, suggesting specific recipes, for instance, of 1780’s Vienna, 1890’s Parma or the Russian and Jewish foods of early 20th-century New York.

Pennsylvania Pro Musica, 27th Annual St.Cecilia Musical Feast.
Program. Philadelphia, PA: Deux Cheminees, ca. 1994.

May, Robert.
The Accomplisht Cook, or the Art and Mystery of Cookery.

London: Printed for Obadiah Blagrave at the Bear in St. Pauls Church Yard, 1678.

A rare fourth edition of The Accomplisht Cook provided the menu foundation for a 1994 dinner showcasing 17th-century composer Henry Purcell.

Weber, T.R.
Die Pennsylvanische Choral Harmonie.
Bethlehem, PA: Henry T. Clauder, 1873.

Weaver, William Woys.
Sauerkraut Yankees.

Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983.

Once popular among Pennsylvania German communities, shapenote singing is an experimental form of music developed in the 19th century and characterized by lesser emphasis on harmonized melodies. Complementing the meals and recipes in Sauerkraut Yankees, a shapenote serenade could be just the thing to round out a re-creation of a proper 19th-century Pennsylvanische meal.

For over one hundred years, chefs have taken Auguste Escoffier’s (1846 – 1935) writings as the first and last word on culinary technique. Here, the renowned chef gives instructions for tournedos Rossini, popularly regarded as the creation of composer Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868).

19th Century Italian Dining with the Philadelphia Singers,
Spotlighting Maestro Giuseppe Verdi.

Invitation. Philadelphia, PA: Deux Cheminees, 2002.

(Left) Escoffier, Auguste.
Vyuyan Holland, Trans.
Ma Cuisine.
London: Paul Hamlyn, 1965.
(Original work published 1934.)

(Right) An Evening with Rossini and the Philadelphia Singers.
Menu. Philadelphia, PA: Deux Cheminees, ca. 1996.

Occasionally, a Great Composer dish fails to seduce 21st-century palates -- a recent Sicilian salad of calves’ feet and cucumber pickles was a little too authentic for Verdi aficionados. When Blank once asked Louis Szathmary just how authentic one needed to be when recreating historic menus, the Hungarian chef declared, “Chust up to the point of indichestibility!”

Hagger, Conrad.
Neues saltzburgisches Koch-Buch: fur hochfurstliche und Andere vornehme Hofe, Closter, Herren-Hauser.
Augsburg: Johann Jacob Lotter, Munich: Heimeran Verlag, 1977.
(Original work Published 1719.)

Like many older books, Hagger’s title varies even within the same volume. Blank believes it to be the only known recipe book in circulation during Mozart’s lifetime written by a professional Austrian cook, and it was an indispensable guide for interpreting menus that honored both Mozart and Beethoven.

Home | Exhibit Introduction | A Chef and His Library | Someone's in the Kitchen with Fritz | Standing in the Stockpots of Giants

Great Composers | Victus Populi | A Fine Mess | My Dear Heinrich | Cattail City | May I Take Your Menu? | Guten Appetit

Acknowledgements | Fritz Blank Biography

© 2002 University of Pennyslvanian Library Trustees