William Kitchiner

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William Kitchiner
William Kitchiner.jpg
Portrait of Kitchiner
Died1827 (aged 51–52)
London, England
Resting placeSt Clement Danes, City of Westminster, London
Known forCook's Oracle, crisp, creator of Wow-Wow sauce

William Kitchiner M.D. (1775–1827) was an English optician, inventor of telescopes, amateur musician and exceptional cook.[1] A celebrity chef, he was a household name during the 19th century, and his 1817 cookbook, The Cook's Oracle, was a bestseller in the United Kingdom and the United States.[2] The origin of the crisp (also known as potato chip) is attributed to Kitchiner, with The Cook's Oracle including the earliest known recipe.[3][4]

Unlike most food writers of the time he cooked the food himself, washed up afterwards, and performed all the household tasks he wrote about. He travelled around with his portable cabinet of taste, a folding cabinet containing his mustards and sauces.[5] He was also the creator of Wow-Wow sauce.

The Cook's Oracle by William Kitchiner[edit]

Caricature of Richard Martin, William Kitchiner, Samuel Phillips Eady: Martin's Bill in Operation (published 1924).

Kitchiner's most well-known book The Cook's Oracle, full title Apicius Redivivus, or the Cook's Oracle, was first published in 1817.[6] It is also known as The Cook's Oracle: Containing receipts for plain cookery on the most economical plan for private families, etc.

The Cook's Oracle includes eleven ketchup recipes, including two each for mushroom, walnut and tomato ketchups, one each for cucumber, oyster, cockle and mussel ketchups, and also a recipe for Wow-Wow sauce.[6]

The book contains what may be one of the earliest references to crisps, in a recipe for "Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings", which instructs the reader to "peel large potatoes, slice them about a quarter of an inch thick, or cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping".[3][4]


Kitchiner was born in 1778, the son of a prosperous merchant. His father's legacy meant he did not have to work, but instead was able to live on his own means.[7] Although claiming to have been educated at Eton and Glasgow, he attended neither institution, but the link to Glasgow enabled him to claim to be a medical doctor (M.D.), a claim no-one checked.

His love life was chequered: he married, separated, and had an illegitimate son, who he acknowledged and funded. He surrounded himself with like-minded individuals, setting up a 'committee of taste' which revolved around dinners, hosted by himself or held elsewhere.[8]

His dinners were renowned and made him something of a celebrity within a certain circle. He was very important for that reason Unlike most food writers of the time he cooked the food himself, (not alone), washed up afterward, and performed all the household tasks he wrote about. In his writings he extolled the virtues of a '' magazine of taste'', a 'pyramidical epergne' which could also be made into a portable traveling case, and which contained 28 different ingredients including liqueurs, spice blends, and proprietary sauces.[9]

He died in 1827 of an apparent heart attack, the day before he was due to change his will to remove his son, whom he had decided no longer merited the legacy.[10]

Other books[edit]

  • The Invalid’s Oracle
  • The Housekeeper's Ledger
  • The Traveller's Oracle
  • The Art of Invigorating and Prolonging Life
  • Horse and Carriage Keeper's Guide
  • The Pleasures of Making a Will
  • The Sea Songs of Charles Dibdin, ed.
  • books on singing and on choosing opera glasses.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dr. Kitchiner and the Cook's Oracle - Elspeth Davies ISBN 1-872795-83-8
  • Dr William Kitchiner: the Cook's Oracle: Regency Eccentric - Tom Bridge, Colin Cooper English ISBN 1-870962-07-9


  1. ^ Handley, Neil. "Telescopes (part 1)". www.college-optometrists.org. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  2. ^ "Did Tayto really invent cheese and onion crisps?". The Irish News. Retrieved November 16, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Food and Drink. "'Crisps buoyed Britain in its darkest hour'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-08-26.
  4. ^ a b William Kitchiner (1822). The Cook's Oracle: Containing Receipts for Plain Cookery on the Most ... A. Constable & Company, Edinburgh, and Hurst, Robinson & Company, Cheapside. p. 208.
  5. ^ Foodie, The Old. "The Magazine of Taste". Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  6. ^ a b "Apicius Redivivus: Or, The Cook's Oracle: Wherein Especially the Art of Composing Soups, Sauces, and Flavouring Essences is Made So Clear and Easy ... Being Six Hundred Receipts, the Result of Actual Experiments Instituted in the Kitchen of a Physician, for the Purpose of Composing a Culinary Code for the Rational Epicure ..." S. Bagster. 1 January 1817 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Archives, Westminster City (2013-06-11). "An eccentric epicurean: the life of William Kitchiner (c1777-1827)". The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  8. ^ "Kitchiner, William (1778–1827), epicure and writer | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". www.oxforddnb.com. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-15690. Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  9. ^ Foodie, The Old. "The Magazine of Taste". Retrieved 2020-02-17.
  10. ^ "Kitchiner, William (1778–1827), epicure and writer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/15690. Retrieved 2020-03-31.

External links[edit]