favorite memories of chefs you've met
Posted 08 September 2003 - 01:34 PM
Posted 10 September 2003 - 05:46 AM
Two chefs come to mind; both women, both inspiring, living at the time I met them miles apart on two different continents. The first was the legendary Edna Lewis, and the second was a woman I met in the South of France, Madame Hirtzman, chef and owner of a family auberge in Provence. These were humbling experiences. Both women were without celebrity pretensions. A relief.
I first met Mrs. Lewis in the mid-1970s when I interviewed her at my small apartment for a magazine called Encore. I made us a simple lunch: chicken salad with homemade mayo, popovers, and tomatoes sliced and dressed with fresh mint. We ate, talked and sipped a glass of white wine. Mrs. Lewis was almost shy, unassuming. I didn't quite realize it then, but I know it now: I was in the presence of greatness. Her work continues to inspire me.
I met Madame Hirtzman one Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1972. I was traveling through France. A friend in Marseilles drove me up to her inn, located in the village of Lourmarin, north of Aix-en-Provence. Her auberge, L'hotel Ollier, was favored by the late great writer, Albert Camus, who had had a country home nearby.
After our delicious country meal; white fat asparagus and all, Madame Hirtzman came over to talk with us. She shared anecdotes. Then, squinted at me and told me I reminded her of somebody in her family. I remembered the Moors. Gracious to the end.