Thousand Islands Dressing in Alexandria Bay

“Oscar of the Waldorf” and the legend of 1000 Islands Dressing

At the turn of the century, whenever George C. Boldt was not busy managing New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, he enjoyed vacationing in the 1000 Islands in the Town of Alexandria Bay. Mr. Boldt and especially his wife Louise enjoyed this region of the St. Lawrence River so much that he had the magnificent Boldt Castle built for her. He continued to purchase much land in the region, including hundreds of acres on Wellesley Island, and entertained many wealthy friends and business associates here. Several of them soon shared Mr. Boldt’s affection for the area and constructed their own summer homes on the islands.

Occasionally, while Mr. Boldt was on vacation, Oscar Tschirky attended to matters at the Waldorf-Astoria. Best known as “Oscar of the Waldorf,” he served as maitre d’hotel and official greeter of presidents, dignitaries, and visiting nobility.

Oscar was a hard-working, obedient, and modest man. He was the first person hired for the elegant Waldorf Hotel, and soon became Mr. Boldt’s confidant. Oscar’s attention to practicalities helped counter Mr. Boldt’s fancies and create one of the most elegant, successful hotels in the nation. But when food was involved, Oscar’s fancies prevailed.

Many times Oscar accompanied Mr. Boldt on his trips to the 1000 Islands and to Mr. Boldt’s beloved castle in Alexandria Bay. On one such trip aboard the yacht Louise (named after Mrs. Boldt), Oscar discovered that the noon meal’s salad fixings had been left sitting on the dock. Improvising with the ingredients he had aboard the yacht, he concocted the tasty dressing for which the region is now known around the nation and the world. Soon, Mr. Boldt started serving the dressing at his hotels and its popularity quickly soared.

Oscar’s fame as a chef (which he was not, although mistakenly thought to be by many) became widespread not only because of 1000 Islands Dressing, but also such other innovative and improbable creations as Waldorf Salad and Veal Oscar.

Oscar was such a loyal and talented maitre d’hotel that in 1912 Mr. Boldt offered him the opportunity to be manager of the Waldorf. Oscar gracefully declined, explaining that he was content as, and wanted to remain, “Oscar of the Waldorf.”