Jean-Pascal Hesse has served up a chronicle and an historical time line for the evolution of Maxim’s of Paris. He has successfully taken an eatery synonymous with Paris itself and created a paean to this landmark on Rue Royale.
The book is lushly illustrated, filled with photographs of celebrities of every kind, as well as a pictorial history of the restaurant itself. The storytelling aspect of Maxim’s is deftly handled as if one were having a conversation with the author while skimming through an old photograph album.
The various owners, staff, and clientele are sufficiently detailed to give us a feeling for the personal ambiance created by those who frequent it, as well as offering us an insider’s look at what made this restaurant an institution in Paris as well as a brand known ’round the world.
There is one very amusing story that Mr. Hesse recounts of one particular evening when a Middle Eastern royal appeared with is family and bodyguards for dinner. The bodyguards were carting around two metal briefcases that never left their sight, which is not the usual accessory displayed chez Maxim’s. After the family had finished their dinner, the briefcases were opened to reveal piles of diamond jewelry that was then distributed to every patron of the restaurant that evening as “a party favor” of sorts. Here is a magnificent case of truth being stranger than fiction, one that certainly has helped retain the mystique of this fabled establishment.
One small added attraction is the last chapter of the volume, which is entirely devoted to Maxim’s cuisine—complete with recipes.
If you know anyone who loves Paris, who adores even the idea of Maxim’s, then this will be the absolutely perfect gift. If the history of one of the 20th century’s pivotal watering holes in Paris piques your interest, then this is what you want for your library. It was in Maxim’s that we heard “the night they invented champagne.”
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