Crêpe Suzette is a typical French dessert, consisting of a crêpe with a hot sauce of caramelized sugar, orange juice, grated orange peel and liqueur (usually Grand Marnier) on top, which is flambéed.The most common way to make Crêpe Suzette is to pour liqueur (usually Grand Marnier) over a freshly cooked crêpe with sugar and light it. This will make the alcohol in the liqueur evaporate, resulting in a fairly thick, caramelised sauce. In a restaurant, a Crêpe Suzette is often prepared in a chafing dish in full view of the guests.
The origin of the dish and its name is somewhat disputed. One claim is that the dish was created out of a mistake made by a fourteen year-old assistant waiter Henri Charpentier in 1895 at the Maitre at Monte Carlo’s Café de Paris. He was preparing a dessert for the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII of England, and his companion whose first name was Suzette.
This is told by Henri Charpentier himself in Life a la Henri, his autobiography, although later contradicted by the Larousse dictionary.
It was quite by accident as I worked in front of a chafing dish that the cordials caught fire. I thought It was ruined. The Prince and his friends were waiting. How could I begin all over? I tasted it. It was, I thought, the most delicious melody of sweet flavors I had ever tasted. I still think so. That accident of the flame was precisely what was needed to bring all those various instruments into one harmony of taste . . . He ate the pancakes with a fork; but he used a spoon to capture the remaining syrup. He asked me the name of that which he had eaten with so much relish. I told him it was to be called Crepes Princesse. He recognized that the pancake controlled the gender and that this was a compliment designed for him; but he protested with mock ferocity that there was a lady present. She was alert and rose to her feet and holding her little skirt wide with her hands she made him a curtsey. ‘Will you,’ said His Majesty, ‘change Crepes Princesse to Crepes Suzette?’ Thus was born and baptized this confection, one taste of which, I really believe, would reform a cannibal into a civilized gentleman. The next day I received a present from the Prince, a jeweled ring, a panama hat and a cane.
Different sources (like the Larousse Gastronomique) however doubt that Charpentier was serving the prince instead of the head waiter.
The dish was already a speciality of the French restaurant Marie’s by 1898 (Paris Vécu, L.Daudet, 1929).