There is controversy over the actual origin of the potato chip. There! I’m saying that upfront. The thing is, folks who dispute the most common explanation do not have an alternative version. So, whether it’s an urban legend, hearsay, or a totally fabricated story, what follows is the most commonly accepted explanation on the invention of the potato chip, so here goes!
Saratoga Springs, NY
The story begins in 1853. The wealthy steamship and railroad owner, Cornelius Vanderbilt, was sitting down to dinner in the opulent Moon’s Lake Resort dining room. At the time, Moon’s Lake Resort welcomed a host of wealthy and famous diners, and this Saratoga Springs, New York, restaurant was known far and wide for its exquisite fare.
The chef behind the resort’s wonderful food was George Crum. Born George Speck, Chef Crum was of mixed heritage: half African American and half Native American. He was well known for his carefully prepared meals, such as partridge and quail, often sourced from in and around the restaurant’s very own property.
A picky eater
The story claims that when Mr. Vanderbilt’s meal was presented to him, he refused to eat it. Vanderbilt claimed the fried potatoes were cut too thick. He sent the food back to the kitchen more than once, insisting that the potatoes be cut thinner.
The invention of the potato chip was a prank
Chef Crum became more and more exasperated with the fussy Vanderbilt. Finally, out of frustration, the chef sliced the potatoes as thin as possible and fried them to an absolute crisp! He sent the plate back out to Vanderbilt as a prank, but the joke backfired. Vanderbilt loved the potato’s crispy crunch. Soon, other patrons began to request the “Saratoga Chips” and the food craze spread from upstate New York to many other places.
Chef Crum opened his own restaurant in 1860, called it “Crum’s Place,” and featured a basket of potato chips on every table. The New York Herald named Chef Crum the “The Best Cook in America” in 1889, and the American Heritage magazine dubbed Crum, “The Edison of Grease.”
Now that you know about the invention of the potato chip, open up that bag of potato chips and toast to Chef George Crum with a hearty crunch!
- How it Happened: The invention of the tea bag (plus unusual tea bag tricks!)
- How it Happened: Thank a mulberry tree and the Silk Road for the cardboard box
- How it Happened: You can thank the military for the drive-thru window