Jean Conil, 85; Chef Strove to Save Britain From Bad Cooking
Jean Conil, 85, the French-born chef who made it his life’s work to eradicate bad cooking from Britain, died April 18 of unspecified causes. He had lived in Cambridge, England.
Conil began his crusade to improve British fare in the austere years after World War II, when many Britons were living on dried eggs and overcooked vegetables. In the process, he produced more than 100 cookbooks, wrote for magazines and newspapers, and appeared on TV and radio.
Certain that many of Britain’s postwar problems were the result of bad cooking, he insisted that even in the midst of rationing, good meals could be prepared from ordinary ingredients.
Conil was born to a long line of chefs, his great-grandfather having cooked at the Spanish court, and his grandfather having prepared meals for Napoleon III. Conil served in one of his father’s restaurants as a boy and later became an apprentice of the great French chef Auguste Escoffier in Paris.
Conil moved to London in 1940, joining the Royal Navy as a chef to the Admiralty. After the war, he worked at London’s Savoy Hotel under Marius Dufrey before becoming executive chef at food emporium Fortnum & Mason, where he helped to cater for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.
He later founded the International Academy of Chefs de Cuisine to train British boys as chefs, and the Society of Master Chefs, which worked to improve professional standards. He became one of the first TV chefs, hosting a weekly cooking show, “Cafe Continental,” in the 1960s, and was cooking correspondent for London’s Sunday Times.