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In Search of…Lucky Pierre

10 Mar

A few weeks ago I went to brunch at the William Penn Inn in Lower Gwynedd, PA. Being served at the omelette station was a sandwich named the Lucky Pierre. Intriguing name, I thought. The Lucky Pierre consists of a poached egg, on a half of English muffin, topped with sherried crabmeat. Overwhelmed by this and all the other foods on offer, I did not think much more about it until I got home. Then I started to search.

Typing Lucky Pierre into Google immediately brought up a rather surprising result. To put it mildly, Lucky Pierre is the cream in a rather manly Oreo (this threesome is also known as a French Sandwich). It’s also the name of an erotic novel. And a sexploitation film by Herschell Gordon Lewis. Was this on the mind of the chef at the William Penn Inn? And did that make the poached egg the Lucky Pierre? I needed to know.

I emailed the Inn and received a pleasant email back from the office manager explaining that the Lucky Pierre was created and named by the chefs at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Of course! Those worldly-wise New Yorkers playing a joke on the refined people of Lower Gwynedd. I’d email them for an explanation.

A week later I heard back from the Front Office Manager at the Waldorf Astoria. Unfortunately he had no information about the name. I was at a dead-end. Who was this Lucky Pierre?

Was he the main character from Robert Coover’s erotic novel The Adventures of Lucky Pierre?

Was he a chef who worked at the Waldorf?

Is is possible that the Lucky Pierre is named after the famous French chef, Pierre Gagnaire who has partnered with the Walford Astoria in Berlin and is known as the “Picasso of French Cuisine”?

Or does the name go back to when Waldorf Astoria first opened on Park Ave in New York in the early 1930’s. The chef de cuisine at the time,  a Frenchman named Gabriel Lugot, although not named Pierre, was known for his wit. Maybe the name was an inside joke. Or possibly he named it after the then current Prime Minister of France, Pierre Laval.

It’s also worth noting that around the same time, not far from the Waldorf, the Pierre Hotel also opened. This hotel was opened by Charles Pierre. Pierre, born in Corsica,  later studied and worked in Paris before moving to America at the request of restaurateur Charles Sherry ( Lucky Pierre has sherried crabmeat, and yes, I realize this is a stretch).

Another famous Pierre linked to the Waldorf Astoria is a French boy, Jean Pierre who in 1978 jumped from the 15th floor of the hotel. He thought he was superman.  Was this a tribute, albeit oddly named, to this unfortunate boy? Maybe the chef heard Celine Dion’s song about Jean Pierre, “Superman’s Son” and was inclined to do his part.

Whatever the origin, the Lucky Pierre is a delicious sandwich and a highly recommended feature of the opulent offerings of the William Penn Inn’s brunch menu.

If anyone has any information on the origin of the Lucky Pierre sandwich, please feel free to email me at…

hauntedfondue@gmail.com

6/26/12 Update: I recently read a short story by Kurt Vonnegut entitled 2 B R 0 2 B. In this tale, “Lucky Pierre” is one of the many nicknames for the Federal Bureau of Termination, an institution for those who didn’t wan’t to live anymore. The title of the story was the institution’s phone number (pronounce the “0” as naught). Yet another not so lucky link to this unfortunate name.

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In Search of…The Cream of Wheat Man

26 Feb

In the early days of American advertising, the artwork was often considered expendable, used and then destroyed or thrown away. However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Emery Mapes, one of Nabisco’s owners, considered advertising as art. Mapes recruited several talented artists, including N.C. Wyeth, James Montgomery Flagg and Edward V. Brewer.

The smiling chef on the Cream of Wheat box was drawn by artist Edward V. Brewer from a photogragh taken of a chef in Chicago. The man was paid $5 to pose in his chef’s hat and jacket. His name was not recorded. However, it is believed to be the image of Frank L. White. He was born in Barbados in 1867 and immigrated to the USA in 1875. He travelled alot, but spent the last 20 years of his life in Leslie, Michigan. Mr. White was convinced that it was his image on the box.

Although he died on Feb. 15, 1938, it was not until 2007 that his grave in Woodlawn Cemetery received a proper headstone, complete with the image from the Cream of Wheat box.

Cream of Wheat Man

“Cream of Wheat is so good to eat

That we have it every day……

We sing this song

It will make us strong

And it makes us shout hooray.

It’s good for growing babies

And grownups too, to eat

For all your family’s breakfasts

You can’t beat Cream of Wheat.”

-From radio show “Let’s Pretend” sponsored by Cream of Wheat