April 7, 2011
New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections today announced the gift of the Georg and Jenifer Lang cookbook collection. A renowned restaurateur, owner of Café Des Artistes in NYC and Gundel in Budapest, Lang’s collection comprises some 21,000 books, covering food from the 16th century to the present along with European and American food materials, and is valued at more than $800K.
“One of the most outstanding collections of food materials I’ve ever seen,” said Marvin J. Taylor, head of the Fales Library at NYU. “This collection adds historical depth to our already extensive collection of 20th c. American food materials.”
Lang’s collection, amassed over a lifetime, provided one of the major intellectual resources underlying his extraordinary life as the first and most acclaimed international restaurant consultant.
Collecting "rare books" was not the primary pursuit for Lang, although there are numerous rarities in the library. The Langs' books may best be described as a "Working Man's Library" and "Working Woman's Library." Content has been key.
The collection, covers subjects ranging from account books and kitchen expenses to culinary training, gastronomic essays, food critics, and restaurant architecture and aesthetics, to name a few. There are also books dedicated to cheese, wine, beer, tea, pasta, herbs, uncooked food, fish and game, salads, butter, asparagus, truffles, and even onions.
With the addition of the Lang collection, Fales now holds more than 55,000 books, making it the largest library of food materials in the U.S.
Other Fales Library collections include the libraries (in order by size) of Dalia Carmel, Cecily Brownstone, Andrew F. Smith, Gourmet Magazine (a gift from Rozanne Gold), James Beard Foundation, Ladies’ Home Journal, Doris Lesem, Delores Custer, and Sara Moulton.
At age 19, Georg Lang was forced to leave his Hungarian home and enter a labor camp in June 1944. His parents died in Auschwitz, but Lang managed to escape to New York and rent a space in Hell’s Kitchen, beginning his career as a dishwasher. He took along three cherished books with him, including The Selected Writings of Epictetus, Morning Serenade by Arpad Toth, and Ethics by Epicurus. Since then, with the help of his wife and business partner Jenifer Lang, his collection has flourished into a library of 21,000 books.
By his late 20’s, Lang played with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as a professional violinist. Lang had been a child prodigy in his youth in Hungary, having attended the prestigious Franz Liszt Music Academy. However, when he realized that he could never achieve the musical mastery of Jascha Heifetz, his long-standing hero, he redirected his passion towards the restaurant industry. Once he entered the field of hospitality management, George Lang would never look back.
Word of his unprecedented talent for selling out banquets spread across the city. By 1956, just twelve years after he was sent to the Hungarian labor camp, Waldorf-Astoria appointed him chef and assistant banquet manager. In 1960, Restaurant Associates hired Lang to help open two new, avant-garde restaurants, including the Tower Suite in the Time-Life Building. A few years later, Lang found himself director of the Four Seasons, soon to become one of the most distinguished restaurants in New York.
In 1971, he resigned from his position with Restaurant Associates and started one of the first ever fine dining consulting businesses. Among his first clients were such famous names as the Marriot Hotel chain and Robert Tisch of Loews Hotels. Lang would go on to own a trademark restaurant of New York City, Café Des Artistes, and later purchase, renovate, and open the historic Gundel in 1992, in Budapest.
The Fales Library, comprising nearly 225,000 volumes, and over 10,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, houses the Fales Collection of rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature, the Downtown Collection, the Food and Cookery Collection and the general Special Collections of the NYU Libraries. The Fales Collection was given to NYU in 1957 by DeCoursey Fales in memory of his father, Haliburton Fales. It is especially strong in English literature from the middle of the 18th century to the present, documenting developments in the novel. The Downtown Collection documents the downtown New York art, performance, and literary scenes from 1975 to the present and is extremely rich in archival holdings, including extensive film and video objects. The Food and Cookery Collection is a vast, and rapidly expanding collection of books and manuscripts documenting food and foodways with particular emphasis on New York City. Other strengths of the collection include the Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll Materials, the Robert Frost Library, the Kaplan and Rosenthal Collections of Judaica and Hebraica and the manuscript collections of Elizabeth Robins and Erich Maria Remarque. The Fales Library preserves manuscripts and original editions of books that are rare or important not only because of their texts, but also because of their value as artifacts.
Type: Press Release
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