Maxim's was founded as a bistro in 1893 by Maxime Gaillard, formerly a waiter. It became one of the most popular and fashionable restaurants in Paris under its next owner, Eugene Cornuché. Cornuché gave the dining room its Art Nouveau decor and made sure that it was always filled with beautiful women. Cornuché was accustomed to say: "An empty room... Never! I always have a beauty sitting by the window, in view from the sidewalk."
In 1913, Jean Cocteau said of Maxim's: "It was an accumulation of velvet, lace, ribbons, diamonds and what all else I couldn't describe. To undress one of these women is like an outing that calls for three weeks' advance notice, it's like moving house."
In 1932, Octave Vaudable, owner of the restaurant Noel Peters, bought Maxim's. He started selecting his clients, favouring the regulars, preferably famous or rich, beginning a new era of prestigious catering under the famous Vaudable family which lasted more than half a century. Famous guests of the 1930s included Edward VIII, Marcel Proust and Jean Cocteau, a close friend and neighbor of the Vaudables. The playwright Georges Feydeau wrote a popular comedy called La dame de chez Maxim ("The Lady from Maxim's").
Maxim's was also immensely popular with the international celebrities of the 1950s, with guests such as Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas, the Duke of Windsor and his wife Wallis Simpson, Porfirio Rubirosa, Max Ophüls, and Barbara Hutton. When the restaurant was renovated at the end of the decade, workmen discovered a treasure trove of lost coins and jewelry that had slipped out of the pockets of the wealthy and been trapped between the cushions of the banquettes.
In the 1970s, Brigitte Bardot caused a scandal when she entered the restaurant barefoot. Other guests of this time period were Sylvie Vartan, John Travolta, Jeanne Moreau, Barbra Streisand, and Kiri Te Kanawa. It was during the fifties, sixties and seventies that Maxim's, under the management of Octave Vaudable's son, Louis Vaudable, became the most famous restaurant in the world but one of the most expensive ones as well. With his wife Magguy, Louis Vaudable assured Maxim's international reputation.
François Vaudable, who had been directing the restaurant by his father's side for years, pursued the work of his family which gave Maxim's its era of glory. In 1981, more attracted by the scientific field than by the jet-set, the Vaudables proposed fashion designer Pierre Cardin to buy Maxim's. A rich Arab had offered to buy the restaurant, but they were upset at the idea of it falling into foreign hands. Cardin eventually accepted the offer. Under his management, an Art Nouveau museum was later created on three floors of the building and a cabaret was established which Cardin filled each night with songs from the beginning of the 20th century.
The chefs who worked at Maxim's included a young Wolfgang Puck.
A New York location was opened in 1985 but it closed in 2000.
Today, the restaurant and the Maxim's brand belongs to Pierre Cardin. Other Maxim's restaurants have been opened in Tokyo, London, Shanghai, Beijing, Monaco, Geneva, Brussels, Doha, and Hefei. The Maxim's brand has been extended to a wide range of goods and services.
In popular culture
- Maxim's is featured in both Franz Lehár's operetta The Merry Widow (Die Lustige Witwe) and the subsequent The Merry Widow ballet.
- Georges Feydeau's play named La Dame de Chez Maxim (The Girl from Maxim's, 1899) which was adapted into a film The Girl from Maxim's directed by Alexander Korda in 1933.
- A popular Parisian urban myth claims that Ho Chi Minh worked at Maxim's as a busboy and waiter when he was living as an exile in Paris in the early 1920s.
- The restaurant is mentioned several times in Jean Renoir's 1937 film Grand Illusion.
- Maxim's was also featured in the movie Gigi.
- Maxim's is mentioned in the 1970s British television sitcom Fawlty Towers. Faced with a food inspection, Chef says to Basil Fawlty, "Have you ever read George Orwell's experiences at Maxim's in Paris?" Fawlty retorts, "No, do you have a copy? I'll read it out in court!" Chef is referring to Orwell's 1933 book Down and Out in Paris and London, which gives gruesome details of Orwell's work as a dishwasher in the filthy kitchen of the hotel.
- Maxim's is mentioned in the short story "The Secret of Lieutenant Villar" from the collection Secrets of the Foreign Office (1903) by British thriller writer William Le Queux.
- Maxim's is briefly mentioned in both Ian Fleming's From A View To A Kill and The Man with the Golden Gun.
- The exterior of the restaurant is featured in The Night of the Generals. O'Toole's character (General Tanz) described it as "An adequate restaurant, very clean."
- Mentioned in the Ivor Novello song "And Her Mother Came Too" which is performed by Jeremy Northam in the Robert Altman film Gosford Park.
- In the 1976 comedy film Murder By Death, James Coco's character is in a hurry to "still make dinner at Maxim's".
- A scene in the 1976 Danish folk comedy heist film "Kassen Stemmer" mentions Maxim's. One character tells another, "You're an expensive man to send to Paris. Do you have to eat at Maxim's every day?" The other replies, "Where else?"
- Maxim's is mentioned in the 1979 Doctor Who serial City of Death.
- Maxim's appeared as a location in the 1981 Danish comedy The Olsen Gang Long Gone, in which three Danish criminals steal a red suitcase from one of the customers by diverting people's attention, switching the cook's famous Sauce Impériale with a typical Danish one, causing everybody to get sick.
- The 1982 song "I Predict" by Sparks predicts that Maxim's will repel a Russian invasion of France.
- Prominently featured in the 2009 film Chéri.
- An extended sequence in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds takes place in Maxim's.
- Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard's characters travel back in time to the Belle Époque and have dinner together at Maxim's in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.
- Maxim's is frequently mentioned in late author Sidney Sheldon's critically acclaimed mystery novels.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Maxim's.|
- Maxim's de Paris official website
- Art Nouveau Museum official website
- Pierre Cardin official website
- Maxim's restaurant in Brussels's Grand Place