Was the Cambridge Hotel really the birthplace of the Pie à la Mode?

The Cambridge Hotel featured on Hotel Hell claimed to be home to the Pie à la Mode, but this fact has been disputed quite a few times over the years.

Struggling business owners will do just about anything to keep their businesses from closing down.

And for the establishments that chef Gordon Ramsay decides to help on his show, Hotel Hell – this often means marketing the most unique aspects of their business to potential new clients.

So when Ramsay visited the Cambridge Hotel in the first season of his show in 2012, he just could not wait to try this New York-establishment’s claim to fame.

One of the things that the Cambridge Hotel has going for it when Ramsay arrives is that it had been branded the birthplace of the Pie à la Mode.

Of course, Ramsay was almost immediately disappointed to find out that the Cambridge Hotel had served him a piece of frozen pie, instead of the world-famous delicacy which he had been promised.

But many fans were still left questioning whether the hotel’s claims about originating this dish were true.

Who really invented the Pie à la Mode?

According to the Cambridge Hotel’s version of events, the Pie à la Mode was invented in the 1890s when a regular customer at the hotel’s restaurant, Professor Charles Watson Townsend, ordered his usual slice of pie, served with a side of ice cream.

Another diner at the establishment, Mrs. Berry Hall, promptly gave the dish its now well-known name.

However, it was not until Professor Watson Townsend demanded the dish at another New York restaurant called Delmonico’s that the dish really became a popular American staple.

However, there is some contradictory information which suggests that the Pie à la Mode was actually invented in the 1880s by John Gieriet at the opening of the Hotel la Perl in Duluth, Minnesota.

But, there is no way to confirm any of these origin stories (and the advertisement from the Duluth Daily Tribune, which Perfect Duluth Daily tracked down, does not list the Pie à la Mode as part of the Hotel la Perl’s menu).

That said, we suggest that you settle down and enjoy your slice of ice cream-topped pie without another thought as to who really thought of combining these two delectable desserts in the first place.

About the Cambridge Hotel episode

Though the jury is still out on the birthplace of the Pie à la Mode, the Cambridge Hotel has made history as one of Hotel Hell’s most catastrophic failures as it closed down before the episode even made it to air.

The details of this episode can be summarized as follows:

Detail Description
Episode Hotel Hell season 1, episode 3
Title “Cambridge Hotel”
Initial air date August 20, 2012

Other Pie à la Mode origin stories

Unfortunately, the confusion surrounding the “invention” of the Pie à la Mode does not seem to end with the Cambridge Hotel and the Hotel la Perl.

According to some sources, the World’s Fair in Chicago served ice cream with their pie back in 1893, which prompted the French to adopt the dish.

But then again, a woman named Estelle Glass told The Saratogian in 2003 that she invented the dish for her family business, The Glass Restaurant and Bakery in Schuylerville, “before anyone else.”

What does “à la mode” even mean?

In case you are not an avid foodie, or if you simply skipped out on those high-school French lessons, “à la mode” is used in the French language to refer to something that is in keeping with the current and latest fashion and trends.

This would certainly make sense with both the Cambridge Hotel and the Hotel la Perl’s respective origin stories.

Though, when it comes to pie, having it “à la mode” usually just means that your slice of pie will be served with a scoop of ice cream on top.

Was the Cambridge Hotel’s Pie à la Mode any good?

While it was quite obvious that Ramsay did not enjoy his taste of the Cambridge Hotel’s Pie à la Mode, it seems that reviews on the dish differ, based on when the reviewers visited the restaurant.

DerryXDines’s 2012 review of the dish seems to match up perfectly with what Ramsay experienced, branding it “barely warm and falling apart on the plate”.

However, the Cambridge Hotel’s reviews reveal that the Pie à la Mode was not always such a disappointing dish. One review from 2009 is solely dedicated to the Pie à la Mode and describes the dish as “delicious”.

Moreover, a 2001 The Record review calls the dish a “delicious piece of flaky apple pie drenched in a sensational cinnamon-crumble top crust.”