Blog: Julia at 100 A Celebration of Julia Childs 100th Birthday
Female chefs and food personalities are truly kicking butt these days, especially here in New York City- from April Bloomfield at The Spotted Pig mastering snout to tail cooking to Giada De Laurentiis who has literally cornered the celebrity chef market and makes her presence felt each year at the New York Wine and Food Festival. Both women would not be setting the trends that they are today without the help of the original female trailblazer who took life and briskly beat it with a spatula. Chef, author, and television personality Julia Child embodied all of the traits of a determined female who pioneered inroads on her own terms. Child’s landmark bombastic style of cooking, and the introduction of French food to American palettes have inspired chefs of all walks of life to initially enter the culinary arts. Sadly, in 2004 we lost Julia Child but her legacy lives on to this day. Wednesday marked what would have been her 100th Birthday and DUMBO Brooklyn’s own powerHouse Arena invited chefs and food writers to share some memories commemorating Julia Child’s life and ongoing inspiration. And even though powerHouse is a huge venue, the place was packed with those wanting to take part in the celebration of a great woman’s life.
To honor Julia Child completely, guests were invited to arrive to the ‘Arena’ early before the speakers to enjoy complimentary samples of delicious pastries from Baked Elements and One Girl Cookies. And to tie a bow on some delightfully decadent treats, Park Slope’s own Big Nose Full Body was on hand providing hearty pours of their collection of fine red and white wines. With cookies and vino in hand, the gathering crowd watched a slide show of Julia Child beamed onto the large white wall and a winner-takes-all baking contest with some mouth watering entries.
After the large crowd had their fill of baked goods and wine, the speaker-led tribute began. The evening’s Emcee, Alyssa Shelasky of the highly popular Apron Anxiety took to to the microphone to kick off the evening. Shelasky, was all smiles making her introductions, observations, and even conducting Julia Child trivia rounds throughout the evening. Many in the crowd could be seen jumping out of their seats to chime in with answers about the woman whom they have followed for years. Each speaker provided passionate insight as to how Mrs. Child positively effected their lives and careers. Two in particular really spoke to me due to their fervor and humorous delivery much like the celebrity chef herself. Chef and former Harper’s Magazine editor, Tamar E. Adler spoke candidly about a famous salad and its connection to Child, who brought so many aspects of French food culture to the states and with that, the “Salad Nicoise.” Adler connected this to her childhood, discovering this salad bite by bite. At first she would just sample, then eventually loving the entire dish. It made me hungry, and hunger to see Child preparing this on her classic television program. Tamar also made mention of Child’s style in the kitchen, roughly building complex dishes and not showing any signs of daintiness. Tamar finished up by revealing that like Child, when cooking she only uses parts of tomatoes or other ingredients just because it feels right for that particular dish.
Next up was Dave Crofton of the popular baked goods shop One Girl Cookies. Crofton, a highly animated man, took to the speaking podium to discuss the connection to Child regarding the practice of cooking and preparing omelets. Growing up, Dave would watch and study Julia Child’s style. He commented that Julia stated that omelets take practice, and it’s important to make mistakes and learn from them. Crofton related this to a funny story placing him at his brother’s home, attempting to make omelets for his extended family. His brother’s girlfriend at the time requested an omelet with goat cheese and tomatoes- a tricky omelet to make which he found out the hard way when the resulting dish was runny with tomato juice, ruining the breakfast. Taking a lesson from Julia, Dave learned from his mistake and continued to practice and work. Doing so, helped him come into his own in the New York City pastry community.
On Wednesday, Julia Child turned one hundred years old through the spirit of the speakers praising her impact on their lives in front of a packed powerHouse arena crowd. Mrs. Child proved that you can be a great chef while being eccentric, which makes you unique without being a sideshow act. The next time you dig into a huge salad or a loaded omelet just remember that it took more than store bought ingredients and a stove to create it. It took practice- perfected by Julia Child.
- Jay Rubin