Food for Thought: The Story Behind Chicken à la King 9 years ago

Food for Thought: The Story Behind Chicken à la King

We need food to survive, to nourish us and keep us healthy. But where exactly do foods and drinks get their names?

There are countless dishes out there that have a title attached to them, but did you ever wonder about the history behind their names?


This week we’re bringing you the story behind "Chicken à la King."

There are several different accounts of the origin of this delicious dish.

One of the stories that originates from the 1880s, claims that it was created by Delmonico’s chef who named the dish after horse breeder, Foxhall P. Keene.


Speaking aloud, it’s said that Foxhall voiced his dream of a dish with pimento-cream. The chef, Charles Ranhofer, then came-up with “Chicken a' la Keene” which later turned into the more posh-sounding “Chicken à la King.”

Another version of the story from Claridge’s Hotel in London claims that the dish was invented there and named after Foxhall’s father James R. Keene.

It’s said that the most likely true story is in fact from the 1890s in Philadelphia. Its creator was hotel cook William "Bill" King of the Bellevue Hotel.

Several obituaries credited King with the invention following his death in 1915. 


A New York Tribune editorial at the time read:

“The name of William King is not listed among the great ones of the earth. No monuments will ever be erected to his memory, for he was only a cook. Yet what a cook! In him blazed the fire of genius which, at the white heat of inspiration, drove him one day, in the old Bellevue, in Philadelphia, to combine bits of chicken, mushrooms, truffles, red and green peppers and cream in that delight-some mixture which ever after has been known as " Chicken à la King." 

The recipe for the dish was mentioned in the New York Times in 1893 and was popularised during the late 20th century,