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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Never Apologize: Things I Learned from Julia Child

I think I will always, in one way or another, be a student.  I love to learn and gain knowledge, so that I can share it with others.  When I was in the restaurant marketing world I was young and I was focused on finding a mentor.  That's what many chef's do- if you look at the bios that are sent forth from their PR agencies you will see their resume does not list things such as, great knife skills, amazing palate, people personality, etc.  It lists where they've worked, and especially which chefs that have worked under.  The understanding is that just by being in a great chef's orbit and airspace you have gleaned something of value.  (By the way, the word chef, in French means "chief," so if you tell someone that you are a chef, they may ask you what you are chief of, so you must say you are a chef de cuisine, if that is the case. )  In my search for a mentor I asked some people to mentor me.  No one stepped up, and it was disappointing, until I realized that you don't need to formally declare a mentorship relationship with someone, you just have to ask the rights questions.

While I was in France I read Julia  Child's memoir, "My Life in France," which the movie Julia & Julia was partly based on.  I know several people in Boston who were in direct contact with Julia when she lived in Cambridge, and by all accounts she was an amazing, larger than life person.  One thing I learned from her was to never apologize for your food, even if it''s obviously terrible.  If you look at cooking as a creation, then you must never apologize for it.  Number one, it's probably not as bad as YOU think, and it puts the person eating your food in an uncomfortable situation.  When I read that part in the book, I vowed I would never demean my own cooking again.  You make mistakes all the time, some things are out of your control, you might think you made the best souffle to ever grace this planet and your guests will still not like it cause it brings them bad memories from their childhood.  Just remember, every time you get into the kitchen and cook, it's a gift.You must always honor that gift.

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