R.I.P. Chef Brandt
Charles Henri Brandt, founder of Chalet Brandt and the man credited with bringing continental cuisine to Baton Rouge, died Monday in Oulens, a small village near Lausanne, Switzerland. He was 86.
Brandt was working as a maitre d’ at a hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, in 1950 when he met some wealthy Texans who convinced him to move to Dallas and work at some of their family properties.
After leaving his native Swit-zerland, Brandt worked in Dallas and Galveston, Texas. He met and married Peggy Desaulniers in Texas. The couple moved to Baton Rouge, where Brandt managed the Country Club for 11 years.
After three years in New York, Brandt returned to Baton Rouge in 1964 to manage the City Club. In 1973, Brandt opened Chalet Brandt, a small, elegant restaurant.
Four years later, the restaurant earned the first of its four-star ratings from the Mobil Travel Guide. Brandt operated the restaurant until 1995, when he sold the business to his son Eric Brandt, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Scott Callais, general manager of Juban’s, said Brandt wanted to expose Baton Rouge to fine cuisine, and that’s what he did.
Before Brandt came to the city, Baton Rouge had a lot of steak places, seafood restaurants and Italian restaurants, Callais said. But Brandt introduced the area to continental cuisine.
He also taught Callais, who became the City Club’s first American-born manager in 1990, a lot about continental cuisine.
“Mr. Brandt, knowing I took his spot there, kind of took me under his wing,” Callais said.
Brandt’s daughter, Nicole Brandt Rayner, described her father as an old-world gentleman with a great sense of humor.
Her father also had very high standards and wanted Chalet Brandt and its servers to be perfect, she said. He met with the restaurant’s staff each day, inspecting the waiters’ fingernails and tested them to make sure they knew each dish on the menu.
Brandt spent the last seven years of his life in San Diego, near his daughter.
Brandt was given the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute Hall of Honor award in 2003. In 2010, the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society awarded him the Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement award.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. June 27 at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church at 445 Marquette Ave.
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