In celebration of Julia Child's 100th Birthday the Les Dames d'Escoffier NYC chapter requested pinning stories, recipes and photos on their Pinterest board. This photo takes me back to the moment in my career that was directly influenced by Julia Child. I did not meet Julia in person, but her persona was a hugh influence and I found my (speaking) voice in her kitchen, literally.
I was invited to speak at the Culinary Institute of America by the ALES Club in 1996 and again in 2003.
The photo below was during my second visit in August 2003 -- I was pacing back and forth in front of the Julia Child Kitchen, in the Danny Kaye Theater, inside the Conrad Hilton Library at the CIA Hyde Park Campus. It was sink or swim, and I swam!
A crew from the ALES Club helped me prep and serve that evening. I have kept in touch and followed the careers of several students from 1996 and 2003. A big shout out to Chef John Harkness, Daniel Maser and Jasmine Smith (in the center - green shirt, who oversees Quality Control for Fra' Mani in Oakland. CA).
I did not grow up watching Julia on PBS (albeit I love watching the episodes now, and wish I'd seen them then...), nor do I own any cookbooks written by her (thanks to the internet and web searches, it is easy to find her recipes online).
However, while thinking about Julia and how she influenced me, I realized there are 6 degrees of separation between me and Julia.
Born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, CA on August 15, 1912, she died on August 13, 2004 at age 91 (just shy of 92!). Julia married Paul Cushing Child on September 1, 1946 in Stockton, NJ. He had family in Lumberville, Pennsylvania where Julia and Paul often visited. Amazing to think I have driven Route 32 through Lumberville every day for 20+ years and have gazed at the same landscape and traveled the same roads as Julia.
Her father (John McWilliams, Jr., Class of 1901) attended Princeton University, not long after my maternal grandfather, and mother's namesake, Shirrell Norton McWilliams, class of 1894. While these two McWilliams were a few years apart during college, many Princeton alumni, especially my GreatGreatGrandfather were active in alumni activities (PRade and Reunions, Princeton Avenue eating clubs, Princeton Club in NYC, Buffalo, etc.). Chances are Shirrell and John were aware of each other. Shirrell was involved in theater including Princeton's Triangle Club, playing Julius Caesar in the Horable Julius Caesar with Booth Tarkington.
My 6 degrees of separation from Julia:
my mother Shirrell + Grandmother Georgiana + GreatGrandfather Shirrell Norton McWilliams / Princeton University / John McWillams Jr + Julia McWilliams Childs
I found my voice and inner culinary confidence in your kitchen. Happy 100th Birthday Julia!
Thanks for inspiring me, and the tip, when you smile for the camera say Champagne!