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favorite memories of chefs you've met


Kim WB
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In reading your background, I'm sure that you have had the opportunity to meet some wonderful chefs...many who were cooking and creating before the "star chef" culture we have now...do you have any memorable anectodes, or is there a chef who you feel elevated Soul cuisine...is there anyone you admired and never had the opportunity to meet?

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Hi Kim,

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.

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