2010 Feature Update: [Julia Child's Legacy]
Julia's [Biography][Cookbooks ][Interview][Recipes]

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?

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?

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 completely cooled.

What do you think about microwaves?

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?

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?

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 kitchen?

If you're giving a party don't try something new. Slowly start enlarging your vocabulary.

But disaster could strike at any time?

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


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!

And what about an aspiring cookbook author?

JC:Know 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.

People 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.

Julia's 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.

Mediterranean cooking?

JC:It sells alot of olive oil.

I have to ask this......what is your favorite ingredient?

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!

Back to top