Leslie Revsin, Trailblazer as a Chef, Dies at 59

Leslie Revsin, a culinary trailblazer who achieved celebrity early in her career as the first woman to work as a chef in the kitchen of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, died on Monday at her home in Shoreline, Wash., a suburb of Seattle. She was 59.

The cause was ovarian cancer, said her husband, Philip Carlson.

In the early 1970's, when Ms. Revsin graduated from the hotel and restaurant program at New York Technical College in Brooklyn, there were very few well-known young Americans, let alone women, in the field of fine cuisine. One of her instructors encouraged her to apply for a job at the Waldorf, and in 1972 she started on the bottom rung as a "kitchen man." A year later she was promoted to fish chef and achieved national renown.

In 1977 after a brief stint as the chef at P.S. 77, an outpost of fine dining on the Upper West Side, she opened her own place, Restaurant Leslie, on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village, with nine tables and a highly personal interpretation of nouvelle cuisine. That was when her name became forever associated with Roquefort beignets on apple purée. Restaurant Leslie closed in 1981. It was the last time Ms. Revsin was her own boss.

She worked at many well-known Manhattan restaurants, starting with 24 Fifth Avenue in 1982, and including Bridge Cafe. Her job at Argenteuil ended abruptly in February 1988 after a dispute with Paul Gregory, the restaurant's owner.

In 1990 she became the chef at the Inn at Pound Ridge in Pound Ridge, N.Y., where she remained until 1995. It was her longest and last kitchen position. Her lengthy résumé in the kitchen ended with her eventual career shift from restaurant chef to consultant, television cook and cookbook author.

Her name began to appear on lists of top American chefs starting in 1983. In 1985 she was featured on a cooking series on public television, and she was on other television cooking shows for many years. She also wrote for several food magazines and became a spokeswoman and consultant for a pantry full of products, including olive oil, strawberries, catfish and Alaskan seafood.

In 1997 her first cookbook, "Delicious Dinners From Fillets and Shellfish," was published by Doubleday, followed in 2003 by "Come for Dinner" (John Wiley & Sons). Three additional cookbooks are scheduled to be published by John Wiley & Sons in September and March.

Leslie Kim Revsin was born on Oct. 19, 1944, in Chicago. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated in 1966 from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., with a bachelor's degree in fine arts. She became devoted to fine French cuisine and sharpened her skills cooking at home in Brooklyn before enrolling in the professional course.

Her marriage to Bill Arp, a television producer, ended in divorce. In 1980 she married Mr. Carlson, a talent agent. Her illness was diagnosed about a year ago, when they were moving to the Seattle area to be near Ms. Revsin's daughter, Rachel Arp Ramstead, and her family.

In addition to her husband and daughter, Ms. Revsin is survived by a brother, Ethan Revsin, of New Albany, Ohio, and two grandsons.


Published: August 13, 2004

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