A Recollection of Chef Mathieu

Found in loose papers copied from The Glory Days of the Davenport Hotel (Published by Spokane Corral of the Westerners, 1991) by John Luppert. Luppert was hired as a hotel musician during a musician’s strike that affected the Hotel during the Great Depression. He gives several accounts of a managerial style becoming less and less common in our time. The following is his recollection of Chef Mathieu who headed up the kitchen of that establishment for many years.

Chef Mathew [sic] was the autocrat of the kitchen. He was very French, as all great chefs were at that time. He had the hiring and firing of all kitchen help, and indirectly controlled the waiters and waitresses, because if he, for any reason, took a dislike to any waiter, he would forbid him to come into the kitchen, and being denied the kitchen, he would be unable to place his orders, and he would be forced to quit. The chef was the lord of the kitchen, and held sway over the bakers, salad cooks, fry cooks who worked at the charcoal grills, dishwashers, bus boys, and the casseroller who cleaned the great copper pans, and incidentally washed the [sic] and polished the coins given out by the cashier. Chef Mathew wore a tall white hat when in the kitchen, and while the cooks all wore white hats, no one wore one as tall as the chef’s. The soup chef was a stumpy little German named Johnny Steiner. He habitually carried a glass of beer around with him as he made his rounds in the kitchen.  Between swigs, he kept a napkin over his beer glass, apparently thinking no one would know what he had. My mother was a great cook and would occasionally swap recipes with Chef Mathew. I remember she traded him her recipe for Orange Bread for his recipe for Augraten potatoes. The chef was very courtly in his manners when not in his kitchen, and when I would meet him on the street, he would always say, after a brief conversation, “And how is your charming mother?”. And after a thoughtful pause, “She is a very good cook, for a woman, of course!”