Happy Birthday Julia Child
Julia Child's birthday is August 15 and would be 104 had death not interrupted her in the kitchen. I first met Julia in the fall of 1981. I was in a new position as executive chef at a restaurant in Santa Barbara called the Olive Mill Bistro. Oddly, it was on Olive Mill Road. This was my first position having just come back from my three-year European tour. I had been working at top rated restaurants in London, Paris, Lyon, Roanne and was loaded for gastronomic success.
One evening at the olive Mill Bostro, I was informed the Julia Child was dining with us along with husband Paul Child and Robert Mondavi and wife Margrit. If there was anything that could make your sauce curdle, is was the thought of such a culinary force as the famed Julia Child in the dining room. I had a couple of specials on the menu that evening. I had prepared a local squab in the style of Chef Alain Chapel. It was poached in a star anise broth with liver dumplings wrapped in rice flour dough. The other dish was a local spiny lobster that was par cooked, split, buried in garlic butter and baked. Accompanied by a lobster infused bearnaise and gaufrette potatoes, it mirrored and similar dish we prepared at Le Gavroche in London.
The waiter informed me that Julia had requested that I come out to the table. With some apprehension, I complied. What I encountered were warm, enthusiastic foodies that wanted to know my culinary lineage and how I had arrived at the Olive Mill Bistro. For years after whenever I crossed paths with Robert Mondavi, he would say, "I remember that lobster dish." Julia was an enthusiastic supporter of all things culinary in Santa Barbara and I have the delight to appear on several of her PBS episodes of Dinner at Julia's.
For Julia's 40th anniversary on PBS, there was a country-wide celebration with chef's recreating her famed Boeuf a la Bourguignonne. I was tapped to work with the local city college culinary students to prepared that venerated beef stew. I worked with the ingredients at hand for the dinner where Julia was the honored guest. When we were introduced to the guests after the dinner was served, I went to Julia's table to say hello. Here comment was that is was delicious but, "Need more wine." And yes, she was spot on as the school had not supplied enough wine as specified in her iconic recipe. Her first book, mastering the Art of French Cooking, is still a font of classic French cuisine.
Chef Michael Hutchings