Alexandre Balthasar Laurent Grimod de La Reynière was born in Paris on November 20, 1758. After studying and practicing law and being involved in various artistic and commercial pursuits, he became enamored with an actress, Josephine Mézeray, only to have his affections scorned. Around the same time his drama criticism was being censured by the government and from that point onward, he focused on culinary pursuits and became the first restaurant critic in history.
Grimod would visit various shops and restaurants and write about those he considered noteworthy. All suppliers were approved by a jury of tasters, selected by himself, and often included a majority of women. The published opinions of this jury were often flammable and resulted in a series of vituperative letters between Grimod and various merchants in Paris.
Grimod is in many ways the gastronomic bridge between 18th and 19th century France. He is considered by most culinary historians to be the founder of modern culinary journalism and I would make an argument that he was also the foundation upon which Brillat-Savarin would later build his ground-breaking work, Physiologie du gout (first ed.: Paris, 1826).
The image here is taken from the frontispiece of the fourth volume of his seminal work the Almanach des gourmands (Paris, 1803-12). In the image, Grimod writes in front of a trapezoidal shelf piled high with food. The food has been delivered to him by various chefs and traiteurs in Paris. It is unknown if the shelf represented in the engraving ever existed or if it was simply imagined by Dunant, the engraver. For my current bookshop and studio in Sebastopol, California, however, I worked with a local furniture maker to recreate Grimod's shelf (it displays my inventory). Another version of the shelf exists now in Paris, where it was made by a French eboniste. This version was displayed Air de Paris and is now in the collection and home of my friend and fellow-artist, Yann Serrandour.
Ben Kinmont is an artist, publisher, and antiquarian bookseller living in Sebastopol, California. His work is concerned with the value structures surrounding an art practice and what happens when that practice is displaced into a non-art space. Since 1988 his work has been project-based with an interest in archiving and blurring the boundaries between artistic production, publishing, and curatorial practices. He is also the founder of the Antinomian Press, a publishing enterprise which supports project art and ephemera.
Posted February 9, 2015