Learning from Julia Child?
Posted 22 January 2006 - 03:25 AM
I was wondering if you could share what it was like working with Julia Child. What did you learn most from her? Was it more toward producing a cooking show, or more toward cooking and food itself? Thank you.
"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"
Posted 25 January 2006 - 06:06 AM
Julia Child taught me so many things - about cooking, tv and about life. The one thing that most people don't really know about her was how funny she was in person. Of course she was funny on tv but in sort of a hammy way. But she was a no nonsense, speak her mind kind of gal and it was amazing what came out of her mouth.
I remember being at a IACP conference (Iternational Association of Cooking Professionals) at the height of the food police era and after a key note speaker had given a lecture to about 2000 of us over lunch about the evils of saturated fat and all fat in general, Julia raised her hand and said, "What is so bad about butter??" I think it is wonderful!! Her point was always, everything in moderation, and perhaps that is why she lived to the ripe old age of almost 92 (2 days short of her birthday)
When I arrived on the set the first day we started working together at GBH in Boston on the series "Julia Child and More Company" I figured I would sit at the foot of a master and just learn. But noo, that was not Julia's way. We all had to contribute. She would come up with an idea, say a gateau of crepes and we would all have to brainstorm. So we made it once and then again and again and again (we made one dish 13 times!) until it was perfect.
We only worked 3 days a week (and I was there only for two of them since I was the chef of a restaurant at the time and could only take 2 days off) but they were packed. In typical Julia fashion we all sat down to lunch in the middle of the day. We started with a little aperatif, dry white vermouth of course, then a full lunch (usually a sampling of the dishes we were working on) with wine. The table was set with real forks, glasses, plates (no paper for us please!) and the conversation was lively. There must have been about 15 or so of us.
Anyway, things moved much more slowly in the afternoon. I heard that in later years they dispensed with wine at lunch.
Julia decided after a few weeks of taping that I was a serious cook and therefore should pursue even more training (I had already been through the 2 year program at CIA and I thought that was enough). One day an old chef from Chartres France comes to visit the set and Julia negotiated a "stage" (apprenticeship) for me with him. I sort of couldn't say no so when we were done with the taping I went off to France for 3 months to work at his restaurant. Well, not only did he not let me work the line (remember I was a chef and ran a kitchen in the US) but he also tried to get me alone in the wine cellar whenever he could.
I had nobody to confide in while I was there because I was surrounded by his family - his wife, 2 daughters, etc and I thought they would be horrified if I told on him. Although I was terribly insulted by the whole thing I stuck it out because I was learning so much.
It took me six months after I got back to tell Julia. I thought she would feel terrible that she had put me in such a situation. When I finally got up the courage she said (with slight impatience), "Oh dearie, what did you expect? They are all like that. Get over it!!"
I guess I could go on forever here. What else did I learn from Julia?
You never stop learning
You should always have more than one job (thanks Julia, I am still working my buns off)
You must strive for excellence
No matter how famous you are you are still just another human being
It is ok to make mistakes on tv.
You must smile when you are on tv (not easy)
She was my mentor and sort of like another Mom. I know I have tons of company.
Posted 25 January 2006 - 07:19 AM
...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)
"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style
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Posted 25 January 2006 - 11:47 PM
[...]It took me six months after I got back to tell Julia. I thought she would feel terrible that she had put me in such a situation. When I finally got up the courage she said (with slight impatience), "Oh dearie, what did you expect? They are all like that. Get over it!!"[...]
What I like best is that I can hear her saying that while I read it.
Sounds like a very tough experience on that stage, though!
Have a look at my website, fluteperformer.com!