It’s Pancake Day today (in France) and I’m going to be making crêpes Suzette as it’s one of my beloved’s favourite desserts. He loves ordering it at Le Train Bleu as the sauce is made and the dish flambéed at the table with a flourish.
Like many famous dishes its origin and name is oft-disputed. It is often claimed that crêpes Suzette were invented in Monaco in January 1896 by a chef (probably Auguste Escoffier then chef at the Monaco Grand Hôtel) for the Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII and son of Queen Victoria, who was accompanied by a lady named Suzette. Auguste Escoffier offered to name the recipe he created in the honour of the Prince but he replied that he wasn’t worth it and chose Suzette to be honoured.
Another claim is that it was created in 1895 by mistake at Monte Carlo’s Café de Paris by a young assistant waiter Henri Charpentier. He was allegedly preparing a dessert for the Prince of Wales, whose guests included a beautiful French girl named Suzette. But sources doubt that Charpentier, rather than the head waiter, was serving the prince, because he would have been too young.
Another claim states that the dish was named in honour of French actress Suzanne Reichenberg (1853–1924), who worked professionally under the name Suzette. In 1897, Reichenberg appeared at the Comédie-Française in the role of a maid, during which she served crêpes on stage. Monsieur Joseph, owner of Restaurant Marivaux, provided the crêpes. He decided to flambé the thin pancakes to attract the audience’s attention and keep the food warm for the actors consuming them. Joseph was later with the Savoy Hotel in London.
In 1896, Oscar Tschirky published the recipe as “Pancakes, Casino Style” with everything in place except the final flambée. Escoffier described Crêpes Suzette in the English version of his Guide Culinaire in 1907 (French 1903) the same way, also without the final flambée.
So who to believe? Does it really matter?