ALEXIS SOYER

History of War - - CRIMEAN WAR -

THE FRENCH CHEF WHO REV­O­LU­TIONISED BAT­TLE­FIELD CATER­ING 1810-58 FRANCE

Born at Meaux-en-brie, Soyer was a well­re­garded chef in France be­fore he moved to Bri­tain in 1830. He cooked for Queen Vic­to­ria among oth­ers be­fore he as­sisted in ef­forts to re­lieve the Ir­ish Potato Famine in the 1840s. Soyer set up relief kitchens in Ire­land and pub­lished a book that gave pro­ceeds to famine char­i­ties. Dur­ing this time, he in­vented a por­ta­ble, light­weight trav­el­ling stove that could be trans­ported and used in re­mote lo­ca­tions like field hos­pi­tals. The suc­cess of the ‘Magic Stove’ be­came ap­par­ent in the Crimea. Soyer trav­elled there at his own ex­pense to sup­port cook­ing for the Bri­tish Army. He worked with Florence Nightin­gale to re­vise the diet sheets for mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals and his stoves were in­stalled in camp kitchens. They en­sured that sol­diers re­ceived an ad­e­quate meal and would not suf­fer from mal­nu­tri­tion or food poi­son­ing. Adap­ta­tions of what be­came known as the ‘Soyer Stove’ re­mained in Bri­tish mil­i­tary ser­vice un­til the Gulf War (1990-91). Soyer later wrote about his ex­pe­ri­ences in a book called A Culi­nary Cam­paign.

One Soyer Stove could cook food for 50 men ei­ther in­doors or out­doors and worked in all weather con­di­tions, in­clud­ing heavy rain

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