Soyer Memorial Library

A selection of our most sensual and luxurious cookbooks - Experimental Food Society, London, November 2013

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For the Experimental Food Society Bompas & Parr hosts the Soyer Memorial Library, a small library presenting a selection of our most sensual and luxurious cookbooks drawn from the studio’s in-house culinary library.

The library is dedicated to Alexis Soyer, one of Bompas & Parr’s culinary heroes,Victorian celebrity chef, showman and philanthropist.As well as popularising gas cookery (thereby saving chefs from premature death from respiratory problems) Soyer was sent by the British Government to resolve the Irish Potato Famine, wrote books and opened a food based theme park to rival the Great Exhibition.This included ice caves with stuffed snow foxes, mirror chambers, London's first cocktail bar, a medieval banqueting hall to seat 5000 and a grotto which you had to step through a waterfall to enter. Soyer’s stove design created for the British army during the Crimean War was still in service in the Falklands.

Amassing the library has been the work of a decade. Sam Bompas has cultivated relationships with London's antiquarian book dealers, trawled through second hand bookshops and even engaged gypsies to scour country house death sales for exotic tomes.This has resulted in countless strange and wonderful cookbooks including the notorious White Trash Cook- book, the lurid How to Garnish and the sensational Drag Queen's Cookbook and Guide to Sensible Living.

The hosting of the Soyer Memorial Library follows the launch of Bompas & Parr’s own publishing house, Bompas & Parr Editions, in July.The enterprise was founded to print food related books, magazines and ephemera too savage, highbrow, niche, topical or provocative for conventional publishers to consider.The publishing house also focuses on making rare and out of print culinary masterworks accessible for food enthusiasts.


The first book to be published was Tutti Frutti with Bompas & Parr and Friends explores the gustatory implications of fruit salad.The art book went from inception to print in 92 days to accompany a large-scale installation at Kew Gardens. It con- tains food photography previously thought too suggestive to print and banned from Bompas & Parr’s previous cookbooks.

Forthcoming publications will include Spread the world’s first scratch ‘n’ sniff food pornography and Memoirs of a Stomach, a reprint of Sydney Whiting’s obscure book written from the point of view of a querulous and at times rebellious stomach. It is hoped that conversations hosted within the Gustatory Library will help shape and inform the future publishing agenda for Bompas & Parr Editions.

Sam Bompas comments on the Soyer Memorial Library:
“Soyer was one of the greatest culinary innovators known to mankind and god of the hot stove. By founding the Soyer Memorial Library and making rare culinary masterworks available to everyone, we are able to continue Soyer’s quest to enable people to eat better.”

“Nigella would be the perfect librarian. Soyer dated the leading ladies of the theatre in the 1850s. He would certainly approve. Nigella’s background as a literary editor and celebrated cookery writer further enhances her authority.”

Harry Parr of Bompas & Parr states on Bompas & Parr Editions:
“We are not talking about the populist cookbooks that Jamie Oliver bangs out. Some of our publications will probably disgust, others are pretty droolworthy.We won’t sell many, but our books will be bought by people with well developed tastes.”

The bookplate (top left) was designed especially for the Soyer Memorial Library by Minoh KwonPhotography by Ann Charlott Ommedal and Kimberly Abbott.