Have you ever looked down at your pizza and wondered why you were eating it? After scarfing down a fourth slice, it’s a common reaction. The answer can be attributed to one of history’s great forgotten eccentrics and legendary party throwers. A man so grand that they named him 5 times, Alexandre Balthazaar Laurent Grimod de la Reyniere.
Our good friend Alexandre was born in 1758 to one of the wealthiest families in Paris. However, life wasn’t easy for the young Grimod de la Reyniere. He was born with deformed claw-like hands, a condition that made his parents keep him away from any houseguests, and caused him to develop the strange sense of humor that would one day make him famous. It was in his seclusion that Grimod de la Reyniere developed his interests in art, theater, and writing, which eventually lead to a job writing theater reviews for a journal.
During this time, Alexandre became famous for the grand dinner parties he would throw in his parent’s hotel while they were gone. Not only were his parties the most elite, but they were the rowdiest. Alexandre eventually became known as the ultimate frat boy of 18th century France. However his reign was quickly cut short by his parents, who sent him to live in an abbey after a particularly strange incident where Alexandre dressed up a pig and made it the guest of honor at his party.
Riddled with teenage angst and living in a monastery, Alexandre began studying the art of food. In order to support himself, he opened a small food store in Lyon and devoted his time to learning about gastronomy until his father died unexpectedly in 1792. This allowed him to move back to Paris and resume his life as a socialite and bona fide party animal.
Now there is a guy who knows that he can pull off that hat
Grimod de la Reyniere lived during a time when restaurants were nothing like they are today. Most wealthy people had cooks, and poorer people had to make their own food. The restaurants that were around weren’t popular with nobles, and therefore didn’t take their food very seriously. However, all of this was about to change with Alexandre back in town.
In order to spark interest in food among his elite friends, Grimod de la Reyniere started frequenting a different restaurant every night, then writing reviews about what food was best in a journal which he then gave out to the people at his dinner parties. His colonial era blogs started making their way around town and were eventually published as the world’s first restaurant guide, which contributed to the popularity of restaurants and therefore changed the way that people have eaten ever since.
Grimod de la Reyniere doing what he loved best: eating
One day in the mail Grimod de la Reyniere’s friends received a notice that he had died, and were invited to his funeral. Halfway through the service a special guest showed up: Alexandre, who had staged the whole thing just to see who would come. The fake funeral turned into a retirement party, after which Grimod de la Reyniere moved to the country with his mistress and lived to age 80.
So next time you look down at your pizza, remember to thank Alexandre Balthazaar Laurent Grimod de la Reyniere for the restaurant that it came from. What would he do if he were there watching you eat your fourth slice? Probably eat a fifth.