Menu Cover Chez Carey 1974
In the 1970s there was a restaurant in the city of Orange, Orange County, California that was located at 571 South Main Street. It was called the Chez Carey, after its founder Carey Muller. It was thought of as the finest dining experience in Orange County at the time. The restaurant billed itself as "One of the Great Restaurants of the Western World."
The inside cover of the menu goes on to state "From the gleaming crystal to the gently flickering candles...the exquisite china and rich decor...the continental service where gourmet cuisine is prepared at the table...the Chez Carey is dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of quality for a discerning clientele."
It was a restaurant that had a full quiver of pampering that is rarely seen today. The chairs were lush velvet wing-back chairs. Ladies had foot stools. There were strolling musicians right out of a Hollywood movie. For cigar lovers, there was a cigar cart that came to your table, and the matchbook had your name on it. The cigars were baptized in cognac before being served with the same ceremony as the food. When you left, your car was waiting for you, warmed and ready. This was not a place where the chef stacked the food on a plate. Service was in the dining room with the arsenal of flaming, carving and tossing table side.
Menu Inside Cover Chez Carey
For a budding chef, it was the ultimate job to have in Orange County to learn classic European cooking. The Chez Carey was an early training ground for me in 1974. I had been working at the exclusive Club 33 inside Disneyland for a couple of years and wanted to broaden my training. Fred Hossli was the chef in charge of the kitchen. He was a classically trained Swiss chef from the old school. I started in the "pantry' station under the wing a lady called Stania. There I became an expert at opening oysters, making crepes, preparing the dressings and setting up the mise en place for the dining room captains. Eventually I was given the position on the line working the broiler.
Menu Chez Carey Appetizers and Specials
The menu was very French Continental and came from the Escoffier tradition. It was their I learned the basics of stocks, sauces, grilling, sauteing and all the classic dishes that were featured on the menu. Chef Hossli's primary duty, other than overall kitchen management, was butchering the meats. This task was key to keeping food costs in line. He did not waist one scrap of meat or bone. The beef tenderloin, for instance, was cut in the classic manner. The small pieces were used for Stroganoff; the smaller steaks were sold as Grenadins; middle cuts were Tournedos and the large end was for the Chateaubriand; any trim from the side chain was put into the steak tartar; the scraps were roasted and used to make the meat stock; lastly, all the fat rendered from the roasting of the scraps went into a fat barrel that was collected by a tallow company who in turn paid the chef his "beer" money. Veal legs had a similar treatment whereby every ounce was turned into profit. This was a great lesson in kitchen economy that every chef should know.
Entrees Chez Carey
I have now been a chef for some 39 years and still use a number of the recipes I notated during my year in the kitchen. The Roquefort dressing uses what is now a fortune in Roquefort cheese. I occasional make the Potatoes Biarrritz and remember fondly learning to make the Pommes Souffles, souffle potatoes. They are a bit of a hat trick top make. The potatoes were best when aged; needed to be cut to the right thickness and shape and cooked in to stages. The first stage was a moderately hot oil then a second cooking to make them "blow." There were always duds that were gobbled up by the crew.
In future blogs I will post more on this icon from a bygone era. In the meantime, here is a blog that has a number of posts from past diners.
Chef Michael Hutchings