George Speck was born in 1822 in Saratoga Lake, in Saratoga Springs, New York. George adopted the name “Crum”, since it was a name his father used in his own career as a jockey.
As a young man, Crum worked as a guide in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Eventually he came to realize he had a special talent for cooking!
As a local legend goes, in 1853, when gentlemen wore tight collars and too many layers of clothing, one wealthy patron (perhaps a little disgruntled from the summer weather) entered Moons Lake House, a restaurant on the shores of Saratoga Lake in Saratoga Springs, NY. George Crum worked at Moon’s as a cook.
The grumpy patron ordered Moon’s Fried Potatoes, there well-known house specialty. At that time, fried potatoes (French fried potatoes) were commonly served in thick cut slices in the French tradition. This particular patron found the slices to be too thick and soggy. Dissatisfied, he sent them back to the kitchen and requested that they be sliced thinner. He was duly served a second portion, and still not satisfied; he returned them yet again, insisting that they be cut thinner still. Not particularly receptive to criticism of his cooking, the spirited Mr. Crum obliged by slicing them as paper thin as he could manage and salting them heavily in an attempt to make them inedible! Deep fried, they became quite crispy, they became impossible to eat with a fork. Intending to teach the wealthy patron a lesson, the reaction from the diner instead was one of enthusiastic appreciation and a request for a second serving of chips! Soon other diners requested Crum’s Saratoga Chips. And so begins the illustrious history of “Saratoga Chips”, a Moon’s Lake House specialty.
In 1860, Crum opened his own restaurant in Saratoga Springs on Malta Avenue near Saratoga Lake. Within a few years he was catering to a large and wealthy clientele that included the Vanderbuilt’s, Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton. The snack food association claims Crum brought his invention to his newly opened restaurant where he placed them in baskets on all the tables, and marketed them in “Take-out” boxes as “Original Saratoga Chips” but never patented or protected his invention. When Crum died in 1914, his obituary stated he was the originator of the Saratoga Chip.
While one may never know the true creation of the invention of the Saratoga Chip, we do know that the crunchy, salty snack caught on among diners, and were eventually packed for sale in grocery stores by other companies…and the rest, as they say, is history!