SALUTING THE CHEF – LOUIS SZATHMARY

For some time, I’ve thought about writing capsule biographies about some of the famous chefs. Finding chefs to write about was no problem—there are so many, especially nowadays, when hundreds, if not thousands, of four-star restaurants throughout the USA all boasting of their own super-chefs, who in turn frequently write cookbooks. I must have several dozen chef-authored cookbooks on my bookshelves. Other famous chefs appear on television and cable cooking shows; many of them have become familiar household names and faces. Who isn’t familiar with Rachel Ray and Paula Dean, Bobbie Flay and dozens of other TV chefs?

Many of the old-time chefs and cooking teachers of the 1800s – women such as Fannie Farmer, Miss Leslie, Mrs. Lincoln and others have been written about in depth by other writers. I think I would rather tell you about another super-chef, one you may not know as much about.

My favorite is Louis Szathmary! (Pronounced ZATH-ma-ree). Szathmary had an incredibly fascinating life.

Louis Szathmary, described by one writer as “a heavyset man with a generous face and large bushy mustache “(a description that matches the face on the cover of “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book”) was, surprisingly, a Hungarian who had a doctorate in psychology from the University of Budapest and a master’s degree in journalism. Szathmary was born in Hungary on June 2, 1919, reportedly on a freight train while his family fled invading Soviet troops. He learned to cook in the Hungarian army. After service in the Hungarian army during World War II, Szathmary spent time in a succession of German and Soviet prison camps and thereafter was a displaced person confined to the American occupation zone in Austria. He lived in Austria and other Western European countries before coming to the USA in 1951.

A few clues to Szathmary’s background appear in the preface to “AMERICA EATS”, by Nelson Algren. “AMERICA EATS” was published in 1992 as part of the Iowa Szathmary Arts Series. Szathmary, who knew Algren personally—and purchased the manuscript from him–wrote the introduction to “AMERICA EATS”. (Nelson Algren was a fiction writer and the author of “THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM” which won the first National Book Award. In addition to writing fiction and poetry, Algren also wrote two travel books. “AMERICA EATS” was his only cookbook).

What cookbook collector hasn’t heard of the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series! But, in case you haven’t, briefly, Louis Szathmary, in addition to being a chef and the owner of the famed Bakery Restaurant in Chicago for many years, was a cookbook collector. Actually, Szathmary didn’t just collect cookbooks—he amassed an enormous collection of rare cookbooks, scarce pamphlets and unique manuscripts spanning five centuries of culinary art. He had a collection of twelve thousand books devoted to what he called “Hungarology” – books about his native country – which were eventually donated to the University of Chicago Joseph Regenstein Library. Ten thousand books of Hungarian literature were donated to Indiana University while a small collection of composer Franz Liszt’s letters was given to Boston University.

Johnson & Wales University, the world’s largest school devoted to the food and service industry, was the recipient of over 200,000 assorted items, described as a treasure trove of historical artifacts, which filled sixteen trailer trucks used to make the transfer to the school. There were antique kitchen implements, cheese graters, meat grinders, nut crackers, raisin seeders, chocolate molds, books and even menus.

Included in the gift to Johnson & Wales was “a collection within the collection”, a presidential autograph archive that included documents dealing in one way or another with food, drink, or entertainment, written or signed by every American chief executive. In George Washington’s handwriting is a list of table china he inherited from a relative. A handwritten letter from Mary Todd Lincoln invites a friend from Baltimore to the White House for an evening of relaxation. In a penciled note to his wife, Julia, Ulysses S. Grant asks that two bottles of champagne be sent to the oval office for a reception with congressional leaders. (Szathmary referred to this collection “from George to George”, meaning from George Washington to George Bush). His gift to Johnson & Wales has been attracting thousands of visitors since opening to the public—I believe it! I would love to go to Rhode Island just to see the collection!

The autograph collection includes items written by other historic figures, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Charles Dickens, as well as a note from the fourth earl of Sandwich, inventor of the most frequently ordered food item in the world.

If all of this were not mind-boggling enough, in addition, Szathmary donated over 20,000 cookbooks to the University of Iowa Libraries, creating the Szathmary Collection of Culinary Arts. Almost overnight, according to David Schoonover, the library’s rare book curator, the institution became a “major research center in the culinary arts”. The University of Iowa Press, in conjunction with the University of Iowa Libraries, publishes reprints, new editions, and translations of important cookbooks from the collection of Chef Szathmary. It must have given Chef Szathmary great satisfaction to witness the birth of the Szathmary Culinary Arts Series. Each title presents an unusually interesting rarity from the collection he donated to the institution. One of these published books was “AMERICA EATS”, which I have in my own collection.

“In my native Hungary,” Szathmary wrote for “AMERICA EATS”, “I was raised in a bookish family. From my great-grandfather on my father’s side, my forebears were all book collectors, and when I had to leave just hours before the Soviet army arrived in the Transylvania city where I resided and worked in the fall of 1944, I had already inherited and amassed a sizable number of books, mainly on Hungarian literature and other Hungarian subjects…”

However, Szathmary arrived, in his own words, “virtually penniless” in New York in 1951, with only fourteen books in his small wooden trunk.
He appeared to have been fond of telling the story of arriving on our shores with $1.10 in his pocket, one change of underwear, two pairs of socks, one Sunday suit – and fourteen books. (It is worth noting that the 14 books Szathmary treasured most were not donated to any of the universities. The books he carried with him to America included a Bible he received as a child, three books on Mozart and several volumes of Hungarian poetry).

Upon his arrival in America, Szathmary began to collect books. Writes Szathmary, “My first purchase was a book by Ludwig Bemelmans at the Marlboro outlet store at 42nd Street and Broadway, where in 1952 all the remainder books were sold for nineteen cents each.” Szathmary confessed that he worked two jobs in the beginning, one during the day and another at night—and spent all the money he made on books. Of his early days in America, Szathmary said that he would spend hours in the Salvation Army basement searching for books, which he purchased for as little as five cents each. He said, “I rummaged through books in bins, on tables outside the door, and amid the garbage the accumulates in the back of used bookshops. I found treasures—valuable items—because I had the time.” Later, as time and money improved, he often worked at one job during the day and another in the evening. On the seventh day, he recalled, “I spent all the money I made on books.” (A man after my own heart!)

He continued to collect books while at the same time, as his interest in culinary arts and food management grew, he began to collect books in these fields as well.

Szathmary and his wife Sadako Tanino, owned and operated The Bakery Restaurant in Chicago for 26 years. It grossed more than $1 million a year for much of the time he was in business—and this was a restaurant that served only five dinners a week, no lunch, no bar and no “early birds”.

Szathmary authored several cookbooks of his own, including “THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOK BOOK”, “THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOK BOOK” and “AMERICAN GASTRONOMY”. He was advisory editor for a series of 27 cookbooks, in 15 volumes, titled “COOKERY AMERICANA”, for which he also provided introductions. (I only have three of the volumes from the series at this time, “MIDWESTERN HOME COOKERY” and “MRS. PORTER’S NEW SOUTHERN COOKERY BOOK”, and “COOL, CHILL, AND FREEZE”. These are facsimile editions of earlier cookbooks. Szathmary seems to have been utterly dedicated to American cookery and cookbooks.

Szathmary was a prolific writer, and in addition to cookbooks, also wrote poetry. Additionally, he wrote a food column for the Chicago Daily News, and then in the Sun-Times every week for twelve years! Maybe he felt he didn’t have enough to do, for after closing the restaurant, he continued to operate Szathmary Associates, a food system design and management consulting business, and he devoted a great deal of time to what he described as “the matter of the books”. He also continued to lecture and worked continuously on new projects.

What is particularly intriguing about Szathmary as a chef is, I think, his wide range of expertise. So many of the super chefs today focus on one type of cooking. Szathmary, who could have devoted himself to solely to Hungarian cuisine, seems to have adopted the American potpourri of cookery, which embraces many nationalities. He was famous for his Continental cuisine, in particular his Beef Wellington.

What you may not know about Szathmary is that he developed the first frozen dinners for Stouffer Food Corp. He worked as product development manager for Armour, coming up with new foods and ways to prepare them. Szathmary also designed a kitchen for military field hospitals that could be dropped by parachute and assembled quickly in combat zones.

At The Bakery, Szathmary’s restaurant in Chicago, he dominated the dining room with his commanding presence. He’d walk around in rolled up sleeves, wearing an apron, often telling diners in his booming voice, what to order – or to ask them why something was left on a plate. His customers at The Bakery appear to have provided the inspiration for “THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK”. In the introduction, Szathmary said he gave recipes to ladies who visited his restaurant. Apparently, they often accused him of leaving something out!

Szathmary wrote, “When I tell the ladies that I am able to give them everything except my long years of experience, they still look suspicious. So once again I launch into my best explanation, an old record played over and over again, which goes something like this: If you go to a concert and listen to Arthur Rubinstein playing the MEPHISTO WALTZ of Franz Liszt, and if you go and see him backstage after the performance and ask him for the piano notes, and if through some miracle he gives them to you, and you take them home and sit down at your piano (untouched for years), open up the notes and play the Mephisto Waltz and your husband says ‘Darling, it doesn’t sound like Arthur Rubenstein—“ what do you tell him?

Probably this: Oh, what a selfish artist! He left out something from the notes, I’m sure. Because when I play it, it doesn’t sound like when he plays it.

Well, dear ladies,” concluded the great chef, “Do you really think Rubenstein left out some of the notes? Or do you think his talent had something to do with it—and his daily practice for years and years and years?

You see, my dear ladies, cooking is just like playing the piano—it needs talent, training and practice.”

Szathmary concluded, “The best-kept secret of the good chef is his long training and daily performance. It’s not enough to make a dish once and when it’s not up to standard, to declare, ‘the recipe is no good.’”
**
Szathmary spearheaded culinary education in Chicago by fostering work study programs with restaurants at vocational and high schools. Students and dining enthusiasts were invited to use the library on the second floor of The Bakery. He shared a passion for travel by assisting first time travelers with their plans to visit Europe and Asia.

Szathmary chose, on his own, to donate the bulk of his collections to various universities and institutions. Aside from Szathmary’s incredible generosity, what a wise move to make! Can you think of any better way to make sure the things you love most will be treasured by future generations, people who are certain to love your books as much as you do?

Szathmary explained that he had always bought books for various reasons. ‘When you bet on the horse race,” he said, “You bet for win, for place, for show. When you buy books, you buy some to read, some to own, and some for reference. You want to possess the books, you want to own them, you want to hold them. Perhaps you even hope that you will read them….’

And after having donated hundreds of thousands of books and documents to these different universities, Szathmary confessed “I am still buying books. It’s like getting pregnant after the menopause; it’s not supposed to happen.”

My all-time favorite Szathmary story is written in an article about obsessed amateurs. Writer Basbanes met Szathmary as the transfer of some 200,000 articles to the warehouses at Johnson & Wales was taking place. Szathmary was overseeing the transfer of his collection. Where, Basbanes asked the great chef, had he stored all this material?

With a twinkle in his hazel-brown eyes, Szathmary said, “My restaurant was very small, just one hundred and seventeen chairs downstairs for the customers to sit. But I owned the whole building, you see, and upstairs there were thirty-one rooms in seventeen apartments. That’s where I kept all the books”.

For many of us, we recognize in Louis Szathmary a kindred spirit. How to explain to non-collecting people the love of searching, finding, owning treasured books? One can only hope there are lots of books in Heaven. Meanwhile, here on earth, Louis Szathmary has left us with a wondrous legacy.

“SEARS GOURMET COOKING” was published in 1969.

“THE CHEF’S SECRET COOK BOOK” was published in 1972 by Quadrangle Books and is packed with mouth-watering recipes and lots of “Chef’s secrets” – tips provided by the master himself. “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book” was on the New York Times bestseller list for several years.

“AMERICAN GASTRONOMY” was published in 1974.

“THE CHEF’S NEW SECRET COOKBOOK” was published in 1976 and “THE BAKERY RESTAURANT COOKBOOK” was published in 1981.

Szathmary also edited a fifteen volume collection of historic American cookbooks. One of the volumes in this series is “Cool, Chill and Freeze/A new Approach to Cookery” which I purchased from Alibris.com. This is a reproduction , with introduction and suggested recipes from Louis Szathmary, of recipes from “FLORIDA SALADS” by Frances Barber Harris, originally published in 1926, and Alice Bradley’s ‘ELECTRIC REFRIGERATOR MENUS AND RECIPES”, first published in 1928 (oddly enough, I have both of the originals).

Included in the Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series are “THE CINCINNATI COOKBOOK”, “RECEIPTS OF PASTRY AND COOKERY FOR THE USE OF HIS SCHOLARS”, “THE KHWAN NIAMUT OR NAWAB’S DOMESTIC COOKERY” (originally published in 1839 in Calcutta for European colonials living in India), “P.E.O. COOK BOOK” and the previously mentioned “AMERICA EATS” by Nelson Algren.

Since embarking on the life of Louis Szathmary, I have purchased three of his cookbooks from Alibris.Com on the Internet – they have a great listing! The most recent to arrive is a copy of “The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook” which I was delighted to discover is autographed by the great chef—who was something of an artist, too! (Why am I not surprised?).
His ‘autograph’ is the face of a chef, wearing a white chef’s hat.

Louis Szathmary was a member of the United States Academy of Chefs, the Chef de Cuisine Association of Chicago, and the Executive Chefs’ Association of Illinois. In 1974, he was awarded the coveted titled of Outstanding Culinarian by the Culinary Institute of America, and in 1977, he was elected Man of the Year by the Penn State Hotel and Restaurant Society. He was considered by many to be the “homemakers best friend”, a master chef who willingly shared his secrets of culinary expertise with the world. His cookbooks read in a friendly, chatty way, making me wish with all my heart I could have known….this super chef! You would be wise to make an effort to add his books—if you don’t already own them—to your cookbook collection. Louis Szathmary was, above all, an excellent chef.

Louis Szathmary died in Chicago, after a brief illness, in 1996. He was 77 years old.

Nicholas Basbanes, in his article about Chef Louis for Biblio, described his first meeting with “this delightful, compassionate, brilliant man with the big white mustache”, relating “when I asked how it feels to give away books that were such an indelible part of his generous soul, Chef Szathmary responded, “The books I give away now, they stay in my heart, just like all the others. I don’t have to see them to love them.”

I wish I could have known him.

Happy Cooking!
Sandy

139 responses to “SALUTING THE CHEF – LOUIS SZATHMARY

  1. Sandy – I had the pleasure of working as one of Chef Louis’ personal assistants from 1985-1986. He certainly was a fascinating character and very aware of his own importance in cooking history. In addition to his extensive cookbook collection which included favorite church and community cookbooks (a personal favorite) Chef Louis also had an extensive post card collection. Seeing your blog about him brought back wonderful memories.

    • Hi, Nancy! Thank you for writing! I wrote about Chef Louis once before, for a newsletter called the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and someone wrote to me at the time – I regret to say I don’t remember who – but she, like you, had worked for Chef Louis also (I think perhaps at the Bakery?) – I’ll try to go through my files to see if I can find anything to tell me….and had been greatly impressed with him. I have some of his cookbooks and one of them is authographed. Oh, what I wouldnt have given to meet him and see that cookbook collection! I didnt know about the post card collection! I used to collect those too! I have only kept one boxefull and gradually gave many of them away. Thank you again for writing! You have brightened my day!

  2. Thank you so much for writing about Mr. Szathmary! I only ate at The Bakery twice, as I lived several hours away, but both times he came into the restaurant and greeted each table – such a new thing for a Midwesterner in the 70s & 80s. I have eaten in many famous restaurants since then but this first experience with great food and an interesting chef, in a unique setting, will always remain the most memorable and the best! I have all of his cookbooks and have slowly tried to collect the Americana series though some have been impossible to find.

    • thank you for writing, Sue. Everyone I have heard from over the years (and I wrote about Mr. Szathmary when I was writing for a cookbook collectors newsletter years ago) – the general concensus always was that Mr. Szathmary was bigger than life and had an enormous personality. Sometime ago I heard from a woman who had worked for him…and it was all so positive and uplifting. Oh, what I would have given to meet “The Great Man” myself

  3. Hi, Sandy-

    My wife and I had a ‘colorful’ experience working with/for Chef Louis, similar, it seems, to Grant Aschatz’s time with Charlie Trotter. Our first night in the city, the Chef bid us dine at the Bakery at his expense…but tip well! — it was great. Coincidentally, we sat at a table next to Mike and Sue Petrich; he was a wine representative for Mirassou wines. After dinner, the Petrichs and we went upstairs to our modest 3rd floor apartment rented to us by the Chef and his delightful wife, Sada. We survived four months and had a colorful story resulting from each day with the Chef. Barbara Kuch was there and incredibly helpful. The staff was wonderful. Our “larger than life” Chef brought old-world training values to his new world – such a challenge…for all. He was unbelievably generous and painfully demanding — beyond professional. Sadly, I had to witness the Chef physically threatening a very young apprectice for “f—ing up the chocolate moose.” Conversely, when my wife’s father was dying of cancer, the Chef said, “Shhh – don’t tell Sada – here is $250 for your flight home to see your dad.” I know Beethoven has an emotional breadth unequalled by all others musically; similar was Chef Szathmary in the realms of cuisine and people. Sandy – thanks for sharing; thanks for listening…there’s so much more. Thanks for the opportunity.

    Sincerely – d’crabb

    • Hello, Dennis!
      A thousand thanks for taking the time to write to me about you and your wife’s experiences with Chef Szathmary! This is the kind of response that makes me feel like my blog is validated by writing … whatever it is that I choose to write about. Some of this article appeared earlier (1990s) in a newsletter called the Cookbook Collectors Exchange and at that time, someone who had worked for the Chef at The Bakery had written to me. Another time, someone who had eaten there wrote to say what a spectacular experience it was. You can’t imagine how much I regret never knowing Chef Szathmary but I think he was a kindred spirit, starting with my own Hungarian ancestry. I would have given almost anything to have just been able to visit the Chef’s apartment and see his cookbook collection. I can’t even imagine how great an experience it had to be to live in close proximity for even a week, much less 4 months. Were you writing about the Chef and/or the Bakery at the time? (if I am being too nosy, just ignore me). One of my prize possessions is an autographed copy of The Bakery cookbook. Thank you for sharing this story.

  4. Helen Donna (Muranyi)

    Hi Sandy,
    I must add my story. When I was about 35 years old I was married to a Hungarian. My name then was Muranyi. I was working in Chicago selling radio advertising. Unwittingly I made an un person sales call on Louis. He roared at the thought that he might need advertising. He explained that reservations were filled weeks in advance. However, he was such a sweetheart he invited me to his library to see his 14th century Hungarian cookbook and his test kitchen. Needless to say at his invitation my husband and I did dine there as often as possible and it was the “special” restaurant for occasions for the children. The two younger never got to go as they were too young and grudgingly bring it up still as adults that were cheated. Always when we did dine there we received a special appetizer(usually a baked white fish in white sauce) that we noticed other diners were not served. Could it have been that the reservation was made in the name Muranyi? Usually we had a tableside visit from Louis and sometimes his cute little bidy Japanese wife. Actually I am searching for some information on her artwork that she had on the walls made from the wine corks. If you could be helpful in any way I wouldbe grateful for any information or help. Those were special memories for my family.

    • Hello Helen! Isn’t it remarkable that all of the responses I have received RE: Louis Szathmary have come from people who actually met him or worked for him? I love your story! It rings true of all the stories written to me about anyone who visited his restaurant–that he was a sweetheart and he loved to show special guests his library (OH! What I would have given to see that library!). I have to settle for a few autographed cookbooks of his.
      Actually, I didnt know about his wife being an artist – but maybe one of the people who have written to me about Szathmary will be able to shed a little more light on his artist wife. I also have a friend who loves anything Japanese and maybe she can provide some additional information. Do you know if she went by the name Szathmary too? We’ll have to see if someone reads these comments and gets back to me. And while I wasn’t married to a Hungarian, my ex and I had a large group of friends of which all the men were Hungarian refugees (from the 1956 uprising in Hungary) with American wives. My friend Neva learned to cook everything the Hungarian men liked. These were friends we became acquainted with when we moved to California in 1961. -Thank you so much for writing! Sandy

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    • Dear Lyn,
      A girlfriend, who also has a blog and a website as well as a newsletter for seniors and penpals set up the blog for me. I sent her some photographs of some of my aprons and she did the rest. I am really challenged on blogs and websites – just know how to WRITE something and post it. I will pass along your compliment. – Thanks! Sandy

  10. how much people are contributing to this blog?

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    • I dont do a newsletter, but I write for one and the editor of that newsletter was the person who got me started on this blog. The newsletter is Inky Trail News and you can visit the website at: http://www.friendship-by-mail.com. You can also write to Wedy and request a sample issue. I think she charges about a dollar for that. Thanks for writing! Sandy

  12. Sandy, did you know that Chef Louis was responsible for the lobbying initiative that changed the US government’s classification of food service workers from “domestics” to “professionals”?

    Chef Louis did, indeed, have a temper . . . . I worked there throughout my adolescence -Saturdays, school breaks, summer vacations- and I managed to get myself on the receiving end of it from time to time. Miss Lenegan (as Barbara Kuck often affectionately addressed Nancy) can attest to that! It took me a while, but I eventually realized that much of Chef Louis’ temper came from the fact that he cared deeply for and had high expectations of every single member of his “family” at The Bakery.

    There were three different collage themes at The Bakery. Matchbooks, corks and obsolete currency. All of them were made by Louis and his wife Sadako (affectionately known as Sada or Auntie Sada) nee Tanino. The matchbook collages decorated the front room; the cork collages decorated “The Cork Room” (the main dining room); and the currency collages decorated “The Money Room” (the front room of the southernmost of the three storefronts used for private parties, banquets and the many cultural/social events that Louis hosted for the Hungarian community.

    I could go on and on…….

    Aside to Nancy: miss ya! Did I ever tell you how much, as a youth, I appreciated the ample-ness of your [spice] rack?

    • Thank you for your post, Juan – I am continually impressed with the messages I have received from people, like yourself, who knew or worked for Chef Louis. I didnt know that about the collections of corks & money. I am fascinated by all the comments I have received about this great man. Thank you again! Sandy

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  22. Gabriele M. Doyle

    How strange to come upon this blog today — I just happened to be wondering whether Sada was still alive and ran a Google search on her, and in the process came across your blog (which is quite lovely, by the way!).

    I, too, worked with Chef Louis, but not in the kitchen. I was a part-time secretary who took dictation and typed up correspondence, articles, and whatever Chef needed. This was in 1993 and continued off and on for several years. My very young daughter came with me and stayed in her playpen except for lunchtime. She thought Chef Louis was Santa Claus!

    He was working on a cookbook introduction and would ask me how to word things because he wanted to keep his Hungarian style while using proper English. It could be quite a challenge at times, and was always interesting. His wife, lovely Sada, was the epitome of grace, kindness and hospitality.

    Chef Louis and I had some very interesting conversations about the Austro-Hungarian empire as I had spent a college year in Baden bei Wien, Austria. He and lovely Sada will stay in my memories until I die.

    Thank you for such a wonderful post.

    Gabriele (“Gabi”) M. Doyle

    • Gabi, I do believe in synchroniscity (even if I dont always spell it right) – see Joan Hartman’s comment also received today – she is trying to find a particular meat thermometer that Chef Szathmary recommended to her. Would you know where she can purchase this Swiss product?? I would be thrilled to bits if you know the answer to this question! That is what sandychatter is all about! – Sandy

  23. This is great!! I lived in Chicago until recently and LOVED Chef Szathmary and the restaurant. He was always generous and helpful and gave me perfect information re: products etc. Which brings me to why I was surfing his name. He had recommended a meat thermometer which I bought and which a guest recently broke, and I’ve been unable to find on line. It’s a La Pine (made in Switzerland). I see in his early correspondence that he’d provided a “form” to order it but I didn’t keep a copy. Do you by any chance have info regarding where I could look to order another??? Thank you so much!!!

    • Dear Joan,
      I am not familiar with this meat thermometer–but ever since I posted this article about Chef Szathmary, I have been hearing from some of his fans –and one of them might know..but meantime, let me do some checking around – I get so many food/kitchen tool catalogs and maybe I can find it for you. And I think someone out there will read this and know where you can find it. Thank you for writing – let me know if you find it. – Sandy

  24. Thank you, will do!!!

  25. Wow Joan, Thanks for this great piece on Chef Szathmary. I found your blog while doing research on American Gastronomy. The combination of your post and the comments from those who personally knew him is very nice. When I get some time to deviate from my current project I look forward to reading more.

    When questioned what is American Gastronomy, Szathmary answered: It was food on the move.

    I am working on a mobile food dining and learning experiment: mutableearth.com (will be updated soon)

  26. Sandy, thanks for the writeup on the Chef! I have his cookbook he signed for me with his legendary signature (he’d use 2 or 3 colored markers) where he made the L in Louis into a caricature of himself…the mustache, the chef hat were all drawn into the capital script L. I helped him with food prep for a tv show he was taping in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 70’s…I was only 12 or 13… he used my mom’s kitchen/stove to cook the turkey in the brown paper bag that he was going to pull from the oven on the show. Even though I was so young, he left a HUGE impression! I have used that cookbook so much that the pages are falling apart and I know it’s a treasure. Thanks for writing about him. I think part of the reason I love to try recipes, cook, etc… because of him. He was a very interesting man and larger than life… I am very privilaged to have had the opportunity to have met him.

    • Dear Sue,
      Thank you so much for writing to tell me about your experience with meeting Chef Szathmary–if you have read the other comments sent to me, you will have noticed, I think, that others who met this great man were just as impressed with him. I have one of his signed cookbooks so I am familiar with his distinctive signature too. Oh, I wish I could have met him! I think I first became interested in Chef Szathmary when I began reading about his huge contribution of many of his cookbooks to the University of Iowa Press, creating the Szathmary Collection of Culinary Arts. Almost overnight, according to David Schoonover, the library’s rare book curator, the institution became a “major research center in the culinary arts”. I think I have just two of the Cookery Americana series (Midwestern Home Cookery and Mrs Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book)–I think there are many more books in the series, for which he wrote the introductions and suggested recipes–he was one busy man! His life is fascinating. Can you imagine what a treat it would have been to see his cookbook collection?
      Thank you again for writing – Sandy

  27. Kathy (Kati) Wescoat

    What a wonderful treat to read all the comments….and stroll down the Hungarian lane….what a loss that there are not as many Hungarian restaurants to enjoy all the blessings of food, people, and their talents…one in Michigan called ‘Rhapsody’ was wonderful!! Thanks to all for sharing your stories….I will be looking for the Chef Szathmary cookbooks!!

    • Hi, Kathy – thanks for writing! Thought I’d add a line – a few years ago I was visiting friends who live around central Oregon and they took me to a wonderful Hungarian restaurant for lunch. It was, for me, like stepping back in time. After lunch I spoke with the owner and told him my Hungarian connection, friends we’d had back in the 1960s – and he actually knew some of those Hungarian men – they had been Freedom fighters in the 1956 Hungarian revolution. Many escaped to the USA to avoid prosecution. I love Hungarian food, and also love the individual stories. – Sandy

  28. Hi Sandy, Thanks for posting the article about Chef Louis. He was my great-uncle. I only met him in person once but what a day! His library was massive and that was after he had given away many books. The food he cooker for us was exceedingly rich but very tasty. It’s easy to see why he shut down The Bakery, that style of food is long out of favor. I’m thinking it was easily a 2,000 calorie meal. But it was sublime food. Sada is an amazing woman and a lot of fun to be around.

    • Hello Mike – OMG, what a wonderful treat, to hear from someone actually related to Chef Louis! You have just made my day. What I wouldnt have given to see that library! – and I know he gave away thousands of his books and ephemera (hope that is spelled right) – the library at Iowa University received a great deal of his collection and I believed he4 personally supervised the transfer of other parts of his collection to – I think – Johnson & Wales. (I am a little rusty on the exact details without stopping to look things up) – but I admire him so much–not just because of his cookbook writing – but because of the man he was and his history prior to coming to this country. Thank you so much for writing. Is his wife Sada still alive? That I didn’t know. No one with perhaps the exception of myself – is writing about the cookbook authors and famous chefs of yesterday. If you read the comments on this page you will see that others who knew him have found my blog post and written to me. Isn’t this wonderful? THANK YOU AGAIN!! I am so excited & thrilled to hear from a relative of Chef Louis.

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  32. There’s a documentary film (1994, 2×47 min) about him, directed by Mihaly Raday.

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  35. Thank you for your wonderful article. If you want to see some of Chef Szathmáry’s collection we have digitized the handwritten cookbooks and put them online to be transcribed.
    You can find them here on our crowdsourcing page: diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu.

    Colleen Theisen
    Outreach & Instruction Librarian
    Special Collections & University Archives
    University of Iowa

    • Dear Colleen,
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  37. Andrew S. Erdelyi

    I met Chef Louis in the summer of 1953 when I was a school boy trying to be a kitchen help at the Jesuit Manresa Inst. in So. Norwalk, Connecticut where he was the Head Chef cooking three meals seven days a week for 250 or so Jesuits. To my good fortune I was able to keep up the relationship right up to the time he died in 1996. My two sons spent one summer each at his The Bakery Restaurant also as kitchen help. I was fortunate to have eaten at the Chef’s restaurant twice the last being when he had his 70th birthday bash at The Bakery. Chef Louis was kind to invite my wife and I to several events at the Johnson and Wales Culinary Museum and a private dinner at Dartmouth. If there ever was a “Most Unforgetable Character” he was it, while being a genuine Renaissance Man. May he rest in peace.
    Andrew S. Erdelyi
    Merrick, NY

    • Thanks for writing, Andrew – its comments like yours that “flesh out” my article about Chef Szathmary–I hope you will read the other comments posted by some of the other people whose lives this remarkable man touched. What a golden opportunity you had that summer of 1953!! Wonderful! – Sandy

  38. Dear Madam –

    Upon reading your history of Louis Szathmary and The Bakery Restaurant, I felt it appropriate to send this letter detailing several reminiscences of my time with Louis. He was a good friend since our school days in Hungary, and I am hoping you enjoy these stories as you share them with others.

    It is proper that I introduce myself. My name is Károly (Kahroy, Anglicized later to Charles) Bartha (the h is silent), third grade student (14 years old) at the Reformed high-school in Sp, in the Northeastern part of Hungary.
    It is September of 1937. The pupils were excited to hear the news that two students were transferring: brothers, one in the first grade, the other in the fifth. (There were eight grades then).
    Géza (Gayzaw), the younger was in my brother’s class and lived with us in the same dormitory. The older, Lajos, immediately acquired the nickname, Poci (Potzi, one with a pouch) because of his large size around the waist.
    For the Pentecost holiday next year, we received a four-day vacation.
    Because the brothers lived too far and the train fares were too costly, they decided to remain in Sarospatak. I asked them if they would like to spend the vacation with us. They accepted gladly.

    We arrived in Viss (Vish), my birthplace of about 1100 residents, unannounced. My father was the school-master for the Protestant (mostly Reformed), Jewish, and Gypsy (now Romany) pupils there.
    My motherly grandparents lived with us and three more brothers in the same household. Although my parents were surprised, they welcomed the boys warmly.
    There was not much to do in a hamlet with unpaved roads and without electricity. Our guests fit in fine immediately. Luckily, Lajos took along his set of pastel chalks and proceeded to make an excellent portrait of my grandpa. (Louis had a copy of it in Chicago.) Next day, he painted a picture of the mountain of Tokaj (Tokawy) and another of a manually operated ferry-boat on the bend of the nearby river, Bodrog.
    Géza visited our vineyard and helped with the tedious job of red currant picking.
    They went to church with us, where my father was the organist. I think they had a good time with us.
    During his second year in Sarospatak, Lajos became the president of the school’s Literary and Debating Society. His talent for writing surfaced shortly and was greatly appreciated by the students and the teaching staff.
    After Lajos’ graduation in 1940, our paths parted. Would they ever cross again? The war was looming on the horizon.

    Lajos served in the Hungarian Army, so did I. He cooked somewhere, I attended the Hungarian Royal Military Academy. He was taken POW by the Americans, I surrendered to them. I emigrated to Detroit in 1949, he followed two years later, eventually to Chicago.
    Around the end of 1960, I learned through emigrant papers that a fellow Hungarian named Louis Szathmary opened a restaurant in Chicago.
    We dropped in unannounced for a Saturday lunch in The Bakery with our kids. We were seated, and shortly after, greeted by the Chef himself.
    After mutual introduction, Louis remembered me when I uttered the word, Viss. I remembered him immediately, hugging each-other.
    Finishing our lunch, Louis didn’t let me pay for it. Although he asked us to come back repeatedly, we did not for a while, fearing that he’ll repeat the hustle over the pay.
    A few years later Louis invited us to a Hungarian gathering, for some cultural event. We accepted, and went back several times afterwards.
    Approaching my retirement, Louis asked me if I would help him in his library. Having nothing else to do, I gladly accepted his invitation.
    A few years later, I began to work for him.

    Arriving at The Bakery around noon, Louis introduced me to his “crew”.
    I knew Sada from earlier meetings, a pleasant, gracious lady indeed. Next came Barbara, the chief-steward carrying a huge string of keys, who later behaved as if she owned the place; then Laci (Lawtzi), Louis’ personal driver and general factotum, fixer of everything; Pista (Pishtaw), the creator of tortes and other sweets, and preparer of the wondrous Beef of Wellington. Sadly, I cannot recall the names of those who were present at that long table.
    Later, Sada told me that she spent an entire summer in Sarospatak where her husband attended high-school, with teenagers from all over the globe to learn Hungarian. To my surprise, her Hungarian was adequate for an everyday conversation.
    Four-five (maybe ten) years ago, I read an article about Barbara in a magazine. I thought her last name was Koch (with guttural ch), I might be wrong. She was referred to in the article as the daughter of Louis Szathmary. (Hence her chip on the shoulder attitude?) Indeed, Louis created a position to her as curator—with plenty of stipend—to the Culinary Museum of the Johnson & Wales University.

    My first night at The Bakery was uneventful, sort of.
    I was assigned temporarily to the living quarters of Louis’ departed mother. Before going to sleep, I looked around for something to read.
    There was a long shelf above the bed, holding about twenty large books of the same size. To my surprise, all of them dealt with cannibalism, a definitely different and—luckily—a dying-out way of food preparation and consumption.
    Who collected them and for what reason, I never asked. It was, in my opinion, a minuscule part of Louis’ collection of cook-books, numbering a few thousand.
    Somehow, I didn’t read much that evening. Everyone to his taste.

    After a sumptuous lunch, Louis showed me his cook-book collection. I found it immense, rather unorganized, noticing several duplicate copies. Louis told me that I’ll have nothing to do with these. His working area, the den of a genius, was a “mess”—a rather mild description— which nobody was allowed to touch.
    My real job was to weed out duplicate copies, called “duplum”, in the literature part of his library and to arrange the books for dissemination.
    Louis asked me to leave alone his Transylvanian collection, housed in a separate room, and his private collection in his living quarters.
    For the next few weeks (year and a half, to be exact), I spent 5 to 6 hours a day on ladders, from noon on Tuesdays to noon on Fridays.
    If I ran across books with interesting illustrations, such as wood- or linoleum-cuts, I put them aside. After the early evening meal, Louis looked them over, creating several piles to be given to his friends. Around eight o’clock, I had a call from Louis occasionally. If there were few guests that evening, he would ask me to join him while he ate his dinner. (I normally declined to eat again.)
    Looking around, he would get up to greet the guests, returning to finish up his meal with a cordial.

    It is difficult, if not impossible to break a habit—such as collecting books—especially if the “store” rolls up to your doorsteps. Although Louis slowed down near the end of his life, he loved to visit an adventurous Hungarian refugee’s truck, loaded with anything Hungarian, including recently released books. Sausages in one hand and 4-5 books under his arm, I encountered Louis at the back door.
    Asking him what he purchased, he sheepishly confessed the sausages, but not the books, of which he already had several examples. I returned the books, telling the fellow to sell Louis only newly acquired printed material.

    And, finally, I feel I owe Louis the following:
    Besides dividing and donating his library to several universities in the USA, Louis also remembered his alma mater in Sarospatak. He sent his Kossuth collection there, not only books and letters, but also memorabilia.
    (Louis Kossuth (Koshut, o as in or, h being silent) Regent-President in 1848-49, belonged to the Hungarian lower nobility, so did Louis. Kossuth attended the High-school in Sarospatak for a while, so did Louis. Both were fierce Habsburg foes and pro-democracy fighters, and both were Protestants. Hence the affinity, in my opinion, between the two patriots.)
    Louis asked me to assure that his collection arrived safely on my next trip to Hungary. Naturally, I complied, taking numerous pictures of an as-yet unorganized collection.
    Louis also sent huge pallets of émigré newspapers and several hundred books to join his Kossuth collection. This was the time I left The Bakery.
    One of my brothers told me recently, that Louis’ presents were neatly arranged in a separate room, in a building adjacent to the main library.
    At the main entrance to the high-school, there is a marble memorial plaque for the school’s famous professors and pupils. Louis’ name is on it, as the last entry (for the time being).
    The grateful citizens of Sarospatak also arranged a special room commemorating Louis and his deeds, in a manor-house near to their 14th century famous fortress.

    May you rest in peace, Lajoskám!

    Respectfully,

    Charles Bartha
    icbarthat@comcast.net

    May l add the correct Hungarian pronunciation of Chef Louis’ name:

    Sz az in s(ee),
    a as in (m)a(ll),
    th t is the same, the h being silent,
    m same,
    á as in a(re),
    r same, somewhat rolled,
    y as in i(n).

    The accent is on the words first syllable, as you noted correctly.
    His given name was Lajos, pronounced approximately: Lawyosh.
    His former full name is, with Hungarian hyphenation: Szath-má-ry La-jos. Yes, family name first, with no comma between the two names.
    I called him often by his affectionate name: Lajoskám, my “little” Lajos.

    • Dear Charles,
      I am in your debt and enormously delighted that you took the time to share all of this information about Chev Szathmary with me and my readers. Some of them, you may have noticed, either worked for him or had been acquainted with him in one way or another. My only claim to kinship is that one of my books of his is authographed and I wrote about him because I was so fascinated with his life. That, and a bit of Hungarian ancestry – my paternal grandfather was from Hungary. I am going to print a copy of your message to put with one of my cookbooks written by him. You can’t imagine how much I envy your being able to work with his collection. I “only” have about 8 or 10 thousand cookbooks–I stopped counting years ago and I understand how out of hand a cookbook collection can become. I’m thrilled that you wrote and provide so much insight to the man who became the quite famous Chef Szathmary. Please feel free to write to me again, anytime! Thank you so very much for writing this. – Sandy@sandychatter

  39. I believe this website has got very great composed written content posts.

  40. Saved as a favorite, I like your website!

  41. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the pictures on this blog
    loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

    • aha! I just posted a message to someone else about this very subject. I’ve had a lot of problems posting photos on my blog. I didnt in the beginning but then they changed the format. When I SUCCEED its usually an accident. lol. Sandy

  42. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote
    the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the
    message home a bit, but other than that, this is wonderful blog.
    An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

    • I would be happy to post more photographs – however, that being said, wordpress. changed the format for uploading pictures and I have been struggling with it ever since. I will find a photo of Chef Szathmary on one of his books and post it on the arrticle. Or at least give it a try! thanks for the input – Sandy

  43. Fredricka Reisman

    While attending a mathematics education conference in Chicago around 1972, I gathered several colleagues from Syracuse University including my Ph.D. committee chair and the University of Georgia where I was on faculty and my 17 year-old gourmet cook daughter and cabbed it from the Conrad Hilton to The Bakery. Chef Szathmary personnally guided our menu decisions and autographed The Chef’s Secret Cookbook to my daughter: “To Lisa with my best wishes” followed by his unique signature embedded in his drawing of a chef’s hat. Lisa and the chef somehow got talking about his special meat thermometer (to not leave in during cooking was unheard of) and she was thrilled with her new culinary acquisition. The next year Lisa and I had occasion to return to the Bakery and the Chef remembered us. Lisa and I often remembered our lovely experiences at The Bakery as recently as a few months before I lost her this past June after a 10-year courageous battle with cancer. She ended up following her dream of having her own art gallery and creative website (lisart.com) which her clients referred to as a jewel in Philadelphia. I am using the Chef’s rib roast and Chef’s Salt recipes this Saturday for Lisa’s elder son’s 31st birthday dinner.

    • Dear Fredricka, thank you for taking the time to share this beautiful story with us. I think the single most inspiraing attribute that comes from people who met or worked for Chef Szathmary was his unfailing courtesy to one and all of his customers, so much so that many people remember him for this more than anything else. I never got to meet him but I really feel like I KNOW him. I am so sorry for your loss of your daughter, Lisa. It’s one of life’s hardest things to deal with, losing one of your children. I had four sons, now have three. Thank you again! best wishes, Sandy

  44. Fredricka Reisman

    Thank you for your sensitive response. I am so sorry for your loss. Lisa was my only child. She had a great sense of humor re ” Well, Mom. When you hit perfection on the first try, why continue?

  45. Citation Question

    Did you write this article as well?: http://www.thechicagoculinarymuseum.org/?page_id=320
    Because it is nearly identical to your post. If you didn’t, you should really take care to cite information that you post on your blog, rather than just present it as your own work. If you did, my apologies.

    • Thanks for the heads up, Laura. I did not write anything for th culinary musum and will look into it. My original manuscript for Chef Szathmary was written over ten years ago for the Cookbook Cullectors Exchange. I rewrote it for my blog – I’m mistified! Will take a look at it. many thanks – Sandy

    • Laura, I went to the website and read the article (which does not include the name of the author – curious!) – and I think MOST of the factual information is available in a number of sources – from the dust jackets of his books, for instance. Oddly enough, the TONE and writing style of this article is very much like mine – if you read any of my other articles about cookbook authores, you can see that I have a style that is uniquely mine, I think–kind of how I write letters to penpals; I am talking with my friends. It really does SOUND like me – but I didn’t make the contribution and have no idea who put it together. Thanks for writing. Sandy

  46. Citation Question

    Hmm, Interesting. Maybe they used your info! Is the Cookbook Collector’s Exchange anywhere online? I am conducting research on the Chef for the Special Collections Department at my school–any resources would be super useful. I also emailed the Culinary Museum and asked where they got their information, and no one has responded. Maybe they are the ones who need to learn how to cite info! Anyway, thanks for your respone and take care.

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  65. Hi all, I ran across this site while doing some research on Chef Louis Szathmary.

    My husband and I buy estates, foreclosure cleanouts, auctions etc. and recently made a purchase of over 300 boxes. I was floored to learn that this is the partial estate of Chef Louis and am in awe at the contents. So much so that I have begun to research him and his professional life. Which is something I have NEVER been intrigued enough to do with any estate purchase we have made. I’m not sure what I will do with all his belongings, but learning about him will help me decide!

    • OMG I almost fell off my typing chair. What a FIND! This must be from the second collection he started after he donated a lot of his collection to the University of Iowa and a much greater part of his original collection to the Johnson university (not sure of the exact information–I will have to look at my original notes again.

      Is it possible that you would be interested in selling any of this to me? I had to ask.
      and if not, then you need to scout around and find a source for selling – maybe ebay? I am pea-green with envy. Thanks for writing. Sandy

  66. Yes a very surprising find for sure!

    Yea, we buy to resell so likely Ebay. Maybe locally since we are in the Chicago area as was the Chef.So there may be fans of his still around. I have gotten conflicting information from the research I have done on whether or not “The Bakery” was closed or sold. Do you happen to know?

    You are welcome to first crack at what we have. Just let me know what you are interested in because it is VERY diverse! Tons of signed menus, recipes, cookbooks, paintings (yes he was an artist too!), books, pictures, letters, photos, cooking utensils, hungarian linens, his granite prep table from 1908! And lots lots more…..

    • Hello again, Marie – well just for starters you may get some responses from the people who have written to me, over time, about Chef Szathmary. I am fairly certain that the Bakery closed down. I knew he was artistic; I have one of his cookbooks that is signed with his comic drawing signature. If I were in your shoes (well, if I WERE in your shoes I wouldn’t be selling anything) – but as someone who makes a living on estate sales or foreclosures–I would put it into some kind of order and bundle groups of items–then put it on ebay. How to determine what things are worth? That I don’t know. Personally, I collect cookbooks, recipes, and some Hungarian items (my grandfather on my dad’s side of the family came from Budapest) – I would love to get my hands on that granite prep table but don’t see any easy way of buying it or getting it shipped to California. I would love to get some of the signed menus as well – OMG, what a FIND. I’m thinking his wife must have finally passed away and I don’t believe he had any children. Sometime ago, one of the people who read my blog post was someone who knew Szathmary when they were boys in Hungary–if I can find that letter (it should be amongst the responses I’ve received on this blog) – he wrote a lengthy message to me and he might be someone who would also have a better idea what the collection is worth. when you are prepared to sell some of these things, will you contact me? my email address is ssmith00281@verizon.net.
      I could never have imagined, when I wrote a blog post about Szathmary, the direction that post would take. thanks for writing! I’m absolutely thrilled for you. would also suggest, whatever you feel can’t sell on ebay, you might donate it to Johnson & Wales to go with what Szathmary donated to them some years ago. best wishes, Sandy

    • I hope you will post here to let us know if you are selling things on eBay. And, we will be interested as to the disposition of things not sold. I know many people knew or are fans of Chef Louis! Thanks!!

      • Sue, I am not personally selling anything on ebay – but someone who has been sending me messages – Marie – has acquired a lot of Szathmary’s books, etc., and she MAY be selling on ebay. You might want to check ebay for anything about Chef Szathmary. Some of her messages are listed here.- Sandy

      • sanfranciscocook

        Sorry…my intent was to reply to Marie. If you would be so kind as to consider contacting her directly, in case she does not see these posts, many of us would be grateful. Though I have eBay alerts set up and check regularly, it would be great to know what and how Marie decides to dispose of her large cache. Thank you, Sandy!

      • I’m sure Marie will see this message–she has been following all the posts related to Chef Szathmary–can you tell me more about yourself and whoever else is in your group of interested parties? I want to write a follow up to my original blog post and this is the first time I have heard of a group of people being Szathmary followers. that’s fantastic! And I think Marie is just beginning to get a handle on what she & her husband found–if you have been following the messages, you will know how they acquired 300 boxes of books, menus, et al belonging to Szathmary. But I will make sure Marie knows about these messages; I will email her. – Sandy

      • Hi Sue, finally getting a handle on what all we have! I’m happy to give first offerings to his fans on this blog, but I need to know what you all would be interested in.

        Taking pictures and itemizing everything is going to take a very long time. If anyone is interesting in a particular typeof item (ie.. cookbook, patch from “The Bakery”, personal photo, one of his pictures etc.) then I can gather up a handful of choices for you.

        Let me know!

      • sanfranciscocook

        Sandy, I’m sorry if I confused things. I don’t have a group. I have passed along this info to someone who used to work at The Bakery and who still knows a few former coworkers, all in Chicago. There must be many people in Chicago, and beyond, who remember the restaurant and who are still fans, like me. Wouldn’t it be great if the newspaper was interested in doing a story?! So little space for those kinds of things in the current press these days, unfortunately. Sue

    • sanfranciscocook

      Marie, It all sounds nearly overwhelming for you to tackle so many, many things! I have no idea what I’d like. I have several cookbooks, some autographed. Without knowing what is there, it’s impossible to choose. I can wait, however, and whenever you are ready to sell things, perhaps you can post here. Thank you and good luck!

  67. I happened upon your blog and it brought back delicious memories! When I was about eight years old Chef Louie, his wife, and their friend James Swan held a program showing slides from their trip to Easter Island. Mr. Swan was a friend of my mother’s and she brought me to the program. Afterwards Chef Louie had a buffet including, as I recall, turnips or something he’d carved to look like Easter Island figures. What I remember most though was the pâté. I tried it, I loved it. He sold it for take away at the Bakery and we were fortunate to live near by. We had it for every birthday and holiday. My mother even brought it to me in college. I miss that pâté.

    • Hello MJ…thank you for writing – I have been thinking of doing a sequel to the original blog post about Chef Szathmary – because of emails such as yours. Would you object to having it included in a future article about Szathmary? His influence on people was incredible–everyone who ever met or knew him only had warm recollections of him and his incredible talent. Thank you so much for writing. – Sandy

    • Gosh it is interesting to hear these things. We have those slides in the collection!

    • Yes, James Swann appears to have been a close friend. The Chef had a TON of Mr. Swann’s etchings, even one that he did for them of “The Bakery”!

  68. Certainly, he was a delightful man and an amazing chef and it is so wonderful that people remember him as I do. What he did for the Chicago food scene was amazing and as a Chicagoan I thank him for that as well.

  69. Thanks, MPJ, for sharing this memory of Chef Szathmary–I’m looking forward to putting together a part 2 or a sequel to my original post. – I wish I could have known him too! – Sandy

  70. Sue (Sanfranciscocook) – for some reason WordPress won’t let me to a response directly to your last message (today’s date, 9/2/13) – I AM interested in writing a sequel, part 2 about Chef Szathmary, based on some of the many responses I have had to my original blog post–I would be delighted to hear from anyone else who ever visited the Bakery, or knew Chef Szathmary–and can contribute any memories. I’m not as well known as a newspaper article would be–but then again, my blog reaches people in many different states. And Marie’s “find” is so spectacular, it would be great to include as much information as possible–it would help her while also reaching out to fans of Szathmaryh’s who are interested in buying some of his collection. I wish I could just SEE it. Well, we’ll see where this goes. I need to clear my desk before I start anything else. Thanks for your interest. – Sandy

  71. Dear Sandy and Marie Smit, I have never blogged before and stumbled onto this site by accident while looking up information about Chef Henri Charpentier. I am a culinary collector, have a great cook book collection, and a small bread and butter business of restored copper cookware both antique and vintage which I sell at Alameda Point Flea market in the San Francisco Bay area.. For the past eight years I have been haunting the side door carts of books at Half Price Bookstore in Concord California where I have found fantastic mark down cook books for two and three dollars each. Last year I bought a sumptuously covered paperback by Mr Bashbane called “A GENTLE MADNESS” which is filled with marvelous stories about book collectors. My favorite is about Louis Szathmary which was very poignant and revealing. Naturally I was hooked, only later saddened to discover he had passed away, just my luck. So I started haunting Ebay, and Abes Books on Line, now I have all of his original works, half of which are signed, and a little over half of his Cookery Americana series. His story has been a real inspiration and direction in my cookBook collecting as I am now concentrating on acquiring bit by bit very early cook books, and those by the major food writers and chefs of the twentieth century with the idea of creating a Pacific Coast Culinary Museum and Library. Since I have started this late in life (I am 67 going on twelve) I eat a lot of Ramen Noodles to find and purchase the books and other antiquities associated with food preparation, this is a delightfully infectious disease to be afflicted by with far reaching ramifications of one thing begetting another! When I am out bid on Ebay for a prized book there is a heavy sigh on my part, but then I think about Chef Louis Szathmary, and how he tucked certain books into hiding in the Salvation Army basement until he could come back a few days later with enough money to buy them, how he would get leg cramps crouched down on that cold floor searching for up to seven hours on his days off to find the gems and I know that no matter how old one gets one should never give up a dream, that money is only as good as how you spend it, that the only thing you take from this life is the love you have shared and freely given, and what is left behind are the memories and the treasure for the next generation. I do not see sixteen trucks hauling at the end of my time here, but a good two or three is a healthy start. Thank You Sandy for this terrific site that has been so thoughtfully put together in an endearing way, and to all the above individuals who have shared their remarkable stories about Chef Louis and to Marie Smit from whom I hope I will be able to acquire a bit more Szathmary for my collection.

    • Dear Simone,
      It is such a pleasure to receive an email like yours–well, you know you have fallen in with another cookbook collector; I began collecting in 1965 without a clue where to begin….but I had been reading a magazine called Women’s Circle (not to be confused with Woman’s Day or Family Circle) – this was something published by Tower Press, which had at least half a dozen monthly magazines. When a girlfriend told me she was trying to find a little Hungarian cookbooklet, I said oh, I know how to find it–for women’s circle published letters from subscribers, anyone who wanted anything – sort of an early kind of ebay. I wrote to the magazine describing the Hungarian cookbooklet & said by the way, I would like to find old cookbooks that I could buy or swap for. I received something like 250 responses – bought two copies of the Hungarian cookbooklet, one for my friend & one for me – I bought numerous cookbooks, most for about a dollar each–and answered all of the letters. One letter came from a woman in Michigan who became a penpal and a friend–we have gone through many trials and tribulations together – her husband died in 2011 and my significant other also died in 2011, later in the year. She was really the person who helped me get a collection started, recommending books and sending many of them to me. When I visited her family in the early 1970s, we went around to flea markets finding old church cookbooks for as little as ten cents each. Well, I was off and running. I have no idea how many cookbooks I have now – maybe around 10,000 give or take. Every so often I think its time to thin out some shelves and I send boxes of cookbooks to one of my nieces. Much of what I have written is on my blog & I posted an index of all the titles in August.
      Wanted to mention to you, Henri Charpentier is one of the chefs I wrote about a few years ago. You’ve done very well with your collecting Chef Szathmary–you might want to write to Marie if there is something in particular you are trying to find. I wish you great success with your Pacific Coast Culinary Museum….its the kind of thing I would love to visit. Marie might be able to help you some more along those lines.
      Thank you for writing! Emails such as yours make my day. – Regards, Sandy

  72. Hi Simone,
    Yes, he certainly was an amazing character! I feel like I know him by just going through all of his belongings.

    We finished sorting and organizing his estate last week and today we had a rare book collector of specifically food and drink related items fly in from Maine. He spent 10 hours selecting the items he was interested in and his finds consisted of TWENTY ONE (21) boxes of items. Even with his purchase that barely skimmed the surface of what we have. If you would like to tell me what types of things you are interested in I could give you a nice selection of choices.

    Aside from books and cookbooks, there are many items like:

    Artwork – the Chef was quite the artist in pen and ink drawings too!

    Culinary Kitchen Tools/Gadgets – Simply hundreds, 99% of them are vintage pieces

    Photos – pictures of him cooking at different events, being silly at “the Bakery”,family pics etc.

    Liquor Collection – he collected liquor bottles, some full, some not. Some bottles date back to 1913!

    Memorabilia – Awards he received, pins, uniform patches from “The Bakery”, some of his chef hats and jackets etc.

    Paper Archives – Lot and lots of rough drafts of his cook books, doodles he drew, catering menus, personal and professional letters he received and sent, his teaching outlines and notes etc.

    I’m sure I am forgetting things, but off the top of my head that is an overview of what we have.

    If anyone has any interest, email me with a more narrow request on what you would like to have please: icyalookn777@comcast.net

    Sandy – I JUST found out today HOW these things ended up in a storage facility. His second wife put them there, and apparently she has fallen on hard economic times and couldn’t afford to satisfy the monthly storage costs…..Mystery solved!

  73. OMG, Marie! I guess that’s probably how a lot of things end up in a storage unit somewhere (I’ve watched some of those storage unit auctions a few times) – OK, now that we are talking about this – would you sell me one of his signed drawings? It doesnt have to be big because I will hang it in one of my bedrooms with his cookbooks. I collect measuring cups (glass ones) if you have any of those I would be interested. I have my collection (its small) on cup hooks in my kitchen. I also have a little box (old one) with some of my oldest kitchen utensils in side – I have some of the red and green kitchen utensils . I also collect cookie cutters if you have any of those (is there anything I don’t collect?) well, these are items that don’t take up much space. I have a collection of cookie jars (about 200) and recipe boxes (over 200–what I look for most in a recipe box are recipes from a former owner. I have written about this on my blog too – check kitchen diaries). I particularly like potato mashers (are you laughing at me?) but that’s because I have my GRANDMOTHER’s potato masher that my grandfather made for her. My sister Becky gave it to me on one of my visits (she died in 2004 – the anniversary is coming up) – that is one thing I will bequeath to my younger sister. if I could buy a few kitchen utensils (potato peelers? anything old) – I would make up a little box to go alongside my Szathmary books. I fell in love with glass measuring cups when I found a green glass Kellogg measuring up years ago. Well, those are my thoughts – I hope you made a good “killing” on the things you sold to the guy from Maine…now that is a serious collector! Good for those things to go to someone who appreciates the value and the provence (not sure of the spelling and the word I want isn’t in my Funk & Wagnalls dictionary) – of things that once belonged with unquestionably one of the greatest cooks/chefs of our times. (I really need to get busy with the part 2 of Szathmary–I am working on something southwest to post on my blog & “God willing and the creek don’t rise” my update on him will be next. Thanks for sharing this!!- Sandy (Smith)

  74. Hi Sandy, thank you for responding. Wish to email you personally as well as to let Marie know that I have tried reaching her , but believe my Google Chrome is not acknowledging her address. Have a good fat one to send. too, Are there any special books you are wanting in case I have some duplicates.? During holidays I have taken to giving an appropriate cook book to go with pot a customer buys, which makes a nice token of appreciation. Spread the joy around a bit! Every once in a while I accidently buy one I forget I already have, or someone gives me a book I already own, or I find an earlier edition of something. I have yet to build my glass front book cabinets, and will need to get cracking on that project soon for the well being of the books themselves.not to mention easier access and organization. Wiil need about ten taller than a door and just about as wide, problem is just as soon as I have started puting something aside a great book or a terrific mold comes along and I am sunk, Sound familiar?This is an addictive hobby all things culinary! If you look on ebay there are two Culinary Americanas you may not yet have of Zathmary’s, no one has bid yet, so you might still have a chance. Abes Books is another great on line source too. I will be back soon. warmly Simone

  75. Hi Sandy,

    Just emailed you with photos of the collection I put together for you. Let me know what you think!

    Marie

  76. Hi Simone, just sent you an email to….

    In summary, know that I am so far from a culinary expert and to be quite frank I don’t even know what the vast majority of these items are!

    Today I just began the daunting task of inventorying everything. What I have to do is simply take pictures and let those of you that are interested look at the photos and let me know what interests you. This will most certainly take a while as there are thousands of items, but I plan to do 15-20 uploads a day.

    I just created an online album at http://www.photobucket.com where these photos will be viewable to the public. Here is the link to take a peek at what is up there now:

    http://s400.photobucket.com/user/TheFlynDutchman/library/Szathmary?sort=3&page=1

    Please let me know if you all have any questions!

    • Marie, How do we get in touch with you? I had waited but never heard or read about your way of selling/distributing the Chef’s things. EBay? Prices? I am still interested if there is anything remaining. Thank you! Sue

      • jhartmann88@aol.com

        Hey Sandy! I’ve been looking for info on the meat thermometer he recommended (someone broke mine) and I haven’t been able to find one on line. It’s a La Pine, made in Switzerland. Any chance the people doing the inventorying might have access to the form he gave to order????? Thanks if so!!

      • Dear J Hartmann:
        You are a few weeks too late with this request–Marie, the woman who bought all of the Szathmary books, memorabilia, etc, sold everything to the University of Iowa–which already had a collection of his books, that Szathmary had donated to them years ago. Someone at the University of Iowa saw my blog update in which Marie told me how she had acquired all of Szathmary’s collections–and they contacted her & made her “an offer she couldn’t refuse” – You COULD try writing to the University of Iowa and ask them if they have such a form. Meantime I will keep an eye open –I would really like to get a new good meat thermometer for MYSELF – I was roasting a prime rib roast for a company dinner on New Year’s Eve–and NONE of my meat thermometers would work. I finally decided that a thermometer fork of mine needed new batteries but I had to wing it at the time. The meat in the center was too pink for my liking but we had enough to satisfy everyone and the next morning, I began cutting away the undercooked prime rib and used 4 cups of it to make prime rib roast–that was a hit–and then after my company had all departed, I tossed all the bones and remaining roast into my pressure cooker and cooked it for an hour. That gave me 3/4 of a gallon jar of good beef stock and my two dogs feasted on a handful of shredded meat over their dry kibble – for a week. :) – well, that was a long-winded explanation about a meat thermometer but I am going to make a note of La Pine and keep searching. Thanks for writing. – Sandy

      • jhartmann88@aol.com

        Thanks so much. I’ll keep looking too and let you know if I can find them.

      • Will do. I can also write to Marie, the woman who bought the storage until filled with Szathmary’s treasures – to see if she remembers seeing a meat thermometer or anything like a form to order a new one. Thank you so much for writing – the input from people like you are keeping my article about Szathmary alive.

  77. Simone–my response to your email was rejected –so am going the long way around; this is what I wrote (and Marie should see this):
    Well, Simone, you have come to the right place–I do the very same thing you do – I forget what I already have and have often bought a second copy. yikes! I know I have at least one double of the Culinary Americana series. If I’m not mistaken I posted a list of the books I was familiar with at the end of my original post – but possibly not – I try to do that all the time now, but it took me about a year to adjust to having a blog and getting it worked out to my satisfaction. I have two email addresses – one is ssmith00281@verizon.net and the other is ssmith0028@earthlink.net. The latter is just people I know and I keep junk mail out of it – my Verizon email is always full of junk mail It can be tedious and frustrating to “unsubscribe” to some of those sites. I’ll be happy to help you in any way I can. Well – here’s a thought – if you want to go the long way around – email the message for Marie to me and CC her name on it–it ought to go through that way.
    Google puts more crap into my emailbox but try to get them to approve something you want!
    They’ve gotten VERY BAD – when you type in a name or place or whatever – you get all kinds of junk mail three or four times before you can get what you WANT responded to. when I get really ticked off I go to bing.com.
    ok, I hope this is a good start– we have you and Marie and myself for starters.
    Thanks much,
    Sandy

  78. Hi Sandy, This is saturday nite, sept 14th, just so you do not get this confused with junk mail or spam.!. I could not get through to your email either, but my address is lannicheculinaire@gmail.com. I have a very dear friend who lives not far from you in the Antelope Valley. I used to live in Hollywood at one time for many years as I was in the entertainment business, worked for Disney and other studios as well as independent companies. So you have a complete Szathmary Cookery Americana series hiding out in the back room somewhere? Here I have been struggling to find my missing links here. I am presently keeping several sets of authors in medium sized clear tubs beside my bed as a temporary table. These are the books that cost more and only come one at a time, twentith century greats as in food writers and chefs, mainly first editions. a few signed, second editions if the firsts are too outrageously priced. The likes of MFK Fisher. Alice B Toklas. Elizabeth David. James Beard. julia Child. Louis Diat, Escoffier, and our dear Szathmary. There are others of course on my shelves of fame . I do most of my reading in bed with my three wee four legged daughters. I probably do at least two hours a day research for and about my books and quests, the rest of the time is spent doing restoration for my copper business. I had to smile when you mentioned making friends on line through your interests. I have made three very dear friends this way as well,, one is my partner of almost ten years and the other two have become very dear through shared interests. We have all met up and have had a grand time togetherI am in contact almost dayly with them too. In fact this very computer was a gift from one of them who had it all cleaned up and reconditioned for me, what a game changer this has been to say the least. Have seen first bucket load of Pics from Marie and have chosen as few items from the tool division which I believe were what the chef used personally at home. Some will go in my kitchen for immediate use, and others will be put aside for a museum display. I really dislike most modern tools due to cheap construction, unasthethic materials (ie Plastic), but I have never been a high tech person in the first place. When I find these items they usually look like they have been in the chicken coop for the last century. It is very rewarding to get them scrupulously clean, all the metal parts de rusted and buffed, and the wooden handles sanded down and oiled. I have not been disappointeled yet by how well they still function. There is a Hungarian video on UTube that I watched last night that was done the year before Louis died, He is sitting at his kitchen table at home and demonstrating how to make a wonderful one pot roast Too bad the computer does not have smellarama as the aroma had to be great, and I do not eat meat!!! I am looking forward to having more cookchats with you in the very near future. your smile has been bookmarked. Now I am looking at little bar on top of screen for “new responses from my “bookies”!

    • Hello Simone….before I go off on a long winded discussion about culinary stuff, I had a message on Verizon this morning that they are having problems with emails and are trying to correct it. meantime, though, I am writing down your email address and can usually be found also at ssmith0028@earthlink.net. However, it appears that the best route is through my blog. FIRST–want to ask you, what years were you at Disney? the one in Burbank? I worked at the Business Arts Plaza in Burbank from 1986, when our building first opened, until 2002, when I retired. I worked for the SAG Health Plan for 27 years – started out when the office was in Hollywood on sunset across the street from the guild building–we were upstairs from the KBIG radio station–in 1977 when I started working there, we had about 40-something employees; then the office moved to North Hollywood and was there until we moved into our own building. We may have been ships passing in the night. (its a small world – and gets smaller all the time).
      I will try to find the u tube video of the Chef – it would be great just to hear his voice. oops – if it works. My sound is iffy–it hasn’t been working for a while; I’m trying to get a friend of my granddaughters to come & try installing another set of speakers that came with this computer–but it had speakers built in, so the others weren’t installed. That being said, where did your friend live? I have only lived in the Antelope Valley four, going on five, years. I lived in the San Fernando Valley most of my adult life–the how and why of moving is a long story but my youngest son & daughter in law & children are around the corner from me–and I had the opportunity to buy a house. The market was really low in 2008. This house was a bank repo. I am in Quartz Hill/Lancaster. And I have a younger sister about 3 miles away in Palmdale.
      I read in bed too, along with two jack Russell-Chihuahua mixes and one black cat who sleeps above my head to avoid the dogs. I have stacks of cookbooks piled up on the side of the bed, on my nightstand and piled up on a tv-tray. more stacks piled up around my computer. cookbooks are in bookcases in all three bedrooms and one wall of the living room–more in bookcases in my garage, where Bob, my significant other who died 2 yrs ago–built me a garage library in 2010, before he got sick. It’s hard to explain to people that I really do know where (almost) everything is. I think you probably have a better collection of authors than I do. And its possible some of my authors are not your authors – Betty Wason? Myra Waldo? Ida Bailey Allen? those are a few others I have written about.
      I need to cut this short and return tonight – my granddaughter is being baptized today & then there will be a party at her parents. I made up veggie trays and a big batch of brownies to take over. to be continued! Sandy

  79. Hi Sandy, To answer your question I worked as a independent contractor for Disney at their Tuhunga operation, I sculpted the originals of items used for their theme parks which were later molded in fiberglass and painted by others. Biggest job was almost six months stretch doing a hundred and seventy nine sculptures in green and yellow foam. I could get into a whole bit about Mouseworks, but will save for later on. I know just where you were in Hollywood, I lived in several places about a mile and a half away! Yes, the world does get smaller. The friend I mentioned to you has a small acerage mini ranch on the Antelope hwy west in the mid 7000 address, which is probaby less than fifteen minutes from you! My girls are chihuahua also, one I bought four years ago at a flea market as my other girl was nearing fifteen, This one is Joon, The other was Beanie. Joon is a toy, slightly larger than the teacup size, she does not know she is tiny, has a huge personality, and is tri-colored. The other two were foundlings which I have had for over a year now,Esme and Clhoe. I did all the right things by going over the whole hill banging on doors, puting up several dozen posters and three ads in local newspapers. It Became evident that these two had been dumped as well as abused, They have both come a long way, health, and trust wise, becoming total characters that are very affectionate .When I first started collecting cook books I grabbed up all the specialty ones that were on the book racks for two dollars apiece, the granny cart sagged and groaned all the way home. As I learned more about what I was selling in copperware I began to discover there was a whole slew of specialty pots for different foods, some which are no longer made in our modern age. I then began getting into food history, which also made me a more informed seller. But I was also hooked completely with early culinary things as well. Since I especially like antique food molds I kept hearing about Isabella Beeton’s Household Management from 1852, and Mrs A B Marshall’s Cookery books from the 1880’s. Found a beat up Beeton’s facimille at the local flea, then my daughter purchased an A B Marshalls for my birthday. Because these books have wonderful illustrations and advertisements in them they have proved invaluuable for dating many of my pieces. By the time I read Bashbanes’ Gentle MadnessI had already embarked on the antique cook books. Since the museum I hope to create will also have a research library (including a xerox machine and a coffee maker) I realized that it was important to round out the collection with the works by major food writers and chefs which in turn have influenced the upcoming ones. This means really paying attention and looking for the most pertinent works and when they were published, if it was a popular book there were frequent updates as well as deletions. Since I am over the three thousand mark there are so many I do not have yet, and areas I would like to include like Afro American cooking from Slavery to present day, and on and on and so forth! Yesterday I found a great one on authentic early Mexican cusine hailed by Craig Clairborne, thick, beautiful condition, first edition for one dollar!. When I get book case cabinets I will also have to invest heavily in multiple sizes of those clear mylar book jacket covers, as it is very important to protect them Well I have used up my allotted space here, so will have to come back later!

    • Dear Simone,
      Well, this last message of yours opens up many more doors to discussion–I throw in a few responses for starters…RE the dogs–in infuriates me when people abandon pets that way. (right up there with people dumping new born babies in dumpsters – so unnecessary – you can GIVE a dog to any animal shelter. I know, I had to do it 2 years ago to a golden retriever I had; he had a huge tumor on his back, my BF was dying, I didn’t have the money for surgery for the dog & there was no guarantee that even if they did surgery he would live. So I took him to the shelter on Avenue I. then I cried all weekend. When I tried to reach someone the following Monday, to find out if he had been euthanized, I was told he had been rescued. so I cried a lot more–I will never ever go through that again. And then a week or so later, my BF died. lots more to this story but some months later I realized that Jackie was lonesome and feeling that she had been losing her family – so I put the word out to my son & D-I-L that I wanted another small dog, younger, because Jackie is already over 10 yrs old – preferably the same breed – and a few days later a male 14 mo old Jack Russell-Chihuahua was offered to me. 2011 was a hard year.
      RE your interest in African American cookbooks – I became interested in these some time in the 1990s – I wrote an article for a newsletter I was writing for, titled Our African Heritage and then began searching for more books. I don’t know how many I have but a few are pretty good, scarce books. Eleven years ago I became grammy to a biracial grandson–who could have ever guessed? someday those books will be his, if he wants them. He is a most handsome, gentle and loving boy (biracial children are so beautiful).
      That was a great find, re the Craig Claiborne book & the price was right– I have a lot of Mexican cookbooks too. (also a lot of Chinese, a lot of British…spatterings of many other countries. those occupy a bookcase in what was Bob’s room–next to all of my canning & preserving cookbooks. on the opposite wall are two big bookcases – one side is church and club cookbooks east of the Mississippi and the other are, logically, all the west of the Mississippi. But California cookbooks are in my bedroom and take up a lot of space of their own–and southern cookbooks occupy bookcases in my spare bedroom that has become pretty much my granddaughter’s room when she is here. I really need more shelf space. the overflow are stacked on the floors. @@ its a wonder I can find anything.
      Well, this hasn’t been very cookbook-informative but I wanted to comment on some of your comments. You know I could have searched all over southern California without ever finding someone who had lived almost in shouting distance and had the same interests. :)
      Thanks much, Sandy

  80. Hi Sandy, I have been drooling over a Charleston Cookbook on Ebay with fabulous old photos of black food vendors, mostly just after the turn of the century, but the price is a bit rich for me right now! These gems always show up around the Ramen noodle time of the month! Yes, it would be a little dull to live in a totally WASP invironment, I prefer the mix of all colors and ethnicities which I believe makes for a richer culture. Many of my Thanks givings were spent with a black friend and her family and I really miss the homemade cooked down greens, the sweet potatoe pie, and traditional homemade macaroni and cheese not out of a Kraft’s box! I raised my children with the same open mindedness, so they brought home every color of the rainbow including one boy with a blue mohawk who turned out to be an absolute perfect gentleman and a caring kind person who made it a point to help little old ladies across the street or carry their groceries home! Glad your dog was rescued. It was horrid when I had to put down my Beanie two years ago and I cried for a week after, They are just like having children, and I fail to understand the individuals who are so cruel to them There is so much sickness in our society. I also cry when I see trees being hacked up or leveled, so many do not realize how trees contribute to our very breath as well as beauty in the landscape. Well, this is not exactly cookchat or Szathmary. And I can certainly say your collection of cookbooks really makes me feel like a total beginer in the fieid, but you started when I had to be concerned about being glamorous all the time to meet the clients I worked for. If I had it to do over, I would go for the cook books and the culinary goods! IFAWOULDASHOULDA….there is no turning back the hands of time or experience…so here I am now! Look forward to hearing back from you.

  81. Hi Sue and other blog members. Yes, all of his estate has been claimed with the exception of some of his paintings and a pretty large selection of culinary tools. I have them sorted, but have NOT listed them for sale anywhere, because to be quite honest, I don’t know what the majority of them are called or their intended use! (uggh I knew I should have learned to cook!)

    I am hoping to cross paths with someone local who will take some time to look through them and tell me what they are so that I make them available for purchase.

    I will keep you all posted.

    Thanks!

  82. Sue, like others, I ran across this blog while looking for something else. I hadn’t seen much on Chef Szathmary for years. I was fortunate to have a mutual friend who would bring me a round to chat. He was everything others have described – a big presence, full of life and interested in what you had to offer as a learning experience for him.
    It has been wonderful to be reminded of a special person.

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