Interview with Fern Berman
Sitting in Julia Child's kitchen made
me want to cook forever and never do anything else in my life.
Mrs. Child makes cooking seem like one of the most enjoyable
and easy things imaginable.
She lamented about how families never do prepare meals together
anymore. How important it is to share moments, share experiences
and talk over dinner and not watch TV and become couch potatoes.
"The meals don't need to be anything elaborate" says Mrs.
Child, "just something simple to share with your family."
So many people are working longer hours
today. As a result, they cook less & less. What can they make
when they get home that doesn't take alot of time?
JC : Salads are always a wonderful thing to make. Or
a simple piece of fish, broiled and seasoned with fresh herbs
or spices. There is always the hamburger or you can grill
a simple piece of meat. The key is to learn the basics so
cooking isn't a chore. It's really very easy to cook. And
with a glass of wine at the end of the day, putting together
simple tastes in your kitchen is such a wonderful thing..
What are the most important cooking
tools one should have in their kitchen?
JC: Knives.......and know how to sharpen them. Good pots
& pans designed for use. There are so many that are not made
for practical use.
And for a larder? What are the basics to
stock a pantry?
JC: Eggs & butter. Olive oil. Always have grated cheese
in the refrigerator, to sprinkle. And a bag of mixed cheeses.
Carrots, onions & potatoes. Milk & creme fraiche (which I
make myself). Then just wait to see what comes in. Oh, also
have some bread in the freezer, put it in as soon as it's
What do you think about microwaves?
JC: They're very useful. I finally worked out a way that
potatoes can be cooked. By poking holes in them and cooking
in the microwave for 6-7 minutes, then opening them up & finishing
them off in the oven. With a little salt & pepper. Some butter
and grated cheese.And bread machines? Aren't you going to
ask me about bread machines?
Well, as a matter of fact, I wasn't...but,
okay, what about bread machines?
JC:Well, at Laura Brody's, she brought me down to her
basement and had 17 bread machines throbbing on the floor!
I think they are useful for making dough. It makes it so easy
without making a mess. Take it out for a rise and put it back
for a second rise. Then bake it in the oven. I don't like
how they bake in the machines. I don't like how it looks.
The crumbs are too coarse and the crust is tough. But some
people like that.
And food processors?
JC:Can't do without them. Once the food processor came
into the kitchen it made many things possible. It's easy to
mousse. A dish like Mushroom Duxelles used to take so much
time. Now it's so easy to make with the help of food processors.
And a blender.......you need both a blender and a food processor..
When people are cooking for others for
say, a dinner party. And I know it happens to me too, they
become tense & nervous? What should they keep in mind in the
JC:If you're giving a party don't try something new. Slowly
start enlarging your vocabulary.
But disaster could strike at any time?
JC:Pay attention. ALWAYS have a kitchen timer. I get distracted
but a kitchen timer will always remind me... the more experience
you have, the more you're able to deal with mishaps
Julia ON CULINARY CAREERS
What advice would you give an aspiring chef?
JC:Get the best possible training. CIA is the
Harvard of them all. Then try to work in the best restaurant
in town. Be willing to do anything. Don't expect to come in
as a sous chef. Start out as a dishwasher! Have some humility
no matter how much training you have. People who need stroking
are hard to work with. And above all be nice!
what about an aspiring cookbook author?
your stuff and get yourself known. There is so much competition.
Get yourself in the local newspapers. Do charity events. Belong
to the IACP, it's good for, as they say, "networking", good
for getting to know everybody. It's a wonderful, what's the
word for it? "Unisex" fraternity? Everyone knows everybody.
Be fun. Be helpful. Be generous.
are now getting serious about the art and business of cooking.
JC:Yes, finally they are offering the first
Masters Degreez in gastronomy at Boston University. it's hard
to convince academics that it's a real profession. Food is terribly
important. Anthropologically and many ways.
Philosophy on Restaurants & Her Career.
What do you like to see happen
at a restaurant?
JC:First, I like it to smell good coming in. Then I
look for a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere. I don't like
to be fawned over but I think it's a terrible thing in a restaurant
if you don't like it coming in. I like lighter restaurants,
ones that aren't too dark. Sometimes it's too dark you can't
see. Classic French restaurants are brighter so you can see
what you're eating. I also don't like a plate piled with food.
That's feeding rather than dining. I like to see what the
main dish is about with a little garnish. It's also nice when
the chef offers something free. It shows how generous he is.
It's always nice. Oh, and good wines by the glass. That has
been a real breakthrough. some great wines can be offered.
Wineglasses should be big enough. Not TOO oversized but not
tiny. And I don't like noisy restaurants. I like to have a
nice conversation over my meal.
What are your passions other than cooking?
(Without hesitation Mrs. Child said...)
JC:Friends..... Then I like theater, Art galleries.
The American Institute of Wine & Food (Mrs. Child was one
of the founders). Golf.
JC:Yes, I haven't golfed in a few years. I can't find
the time. But the greens fees are so expensive! Pebble Beach
is $200 an hour! Amazing it used to be $2 at the public course.
You've had such an illustrious career.
What are you most proud of?
JC:Oh my...among the many things...I think my work
with French bread. Making it possible in the home kitchen.
Lining the oven with quarry tile. Now everybody does it. I
think I was one of the first people to do it.
What about the new culinary trends? Like
fusion cooking? What do you think about it?
JC:If they know what they are doing fine. The way Jean
George Vongerichten (Alsacian chef in NY) mixes Asian
with French. He knows how to do it. If you're doing something
just to be creative it might not work.
JC:It sells alot of olive oil.
I have to ask this......what is your favorite
JC:(With a big laugh)...Butter
Can you sum up your philosophy on eating?
JC:At the AIWF we say....moderation, small helpings
and a great variety of foods is a great precept. Alot of restaurants
are having enormous portions. It's not sensible if you want
to keep weight control. But most of all...have a good time!
Thanks and Bon Appetit, Julia!
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