Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Meeting Julia Child

During most of the 90’s, I worked in the hospitality industry, formally at a luxury hotel, and informally for a catering company. My day job was at the hotel and my night job, the fun casual gig, was with a private caterer who serviced the wealthy families of Philadelphia and the blue-blooded Mainline. I miss the people I worked with and miss the fun that I had at these two jobs. I do not miss the long demanding hours and the occasional snobby wealthy people that one had to put up with. In fact, they were two of the reasons that I left the business. I was fortunate enough, though, to have many chance encounters with celebrities.

Over the course of my 19 year hotel and restaurant career, I figure I have met dozens of popularly recognizable figures from fame and fortune. These include political figures, the infamous, sports stars, musicians, famous cooks and authors, and of course the Hollywood celebrity. Julia Child was a American chef who taught America how to cook French cuisine. From 1951 until her death in 2004, she became one of the most respected chefs in the world.

Back in the late 1990’s or very early into 2000 or so, I had the pleasure of meeting Julia Child at an event that I was catering for the well known woman’s group Les Dames d'Escoffier. I didn’t know much about this group when I accepted the catering gig. I later learned that they are a society of professional woman who have achieved success in their culinary fields. The event too place in a sky high penthouse apartment on Philadelphia’s tony Rittenhouse Square. I really had no idea what to expect. For me, it was just another event to have fun working and observe the wealthy in their own environment.
I arrived at the event and was escorted by the hostess whom I will call Mrs. Society, into her small galley kitchen after a very quick tour of the grand apartment. She showed me the areas where guests were allowed and there was to be absolutely no smoking! I asked her what should I tell them if they try and light up? She replied, "You can send then onto the balcony and then lock them out there."  Okaaaay.

I also learned that this was to be a "Meet and Greet" event featuring Mrs. Child with Champagne and high end hors d'oeuvres.  I wasn't really paying attention until I heard the word Champagne! I love the stuff. Half of the already small kitchen was taken up by case after case of Champagne which needed to be chilled quickly for the 40 guests arriving in an hour and a half!  I set to work immediately after first tripping over the cases. A quick scolding by Mrs. Society was in order, "CAREFUL! That is Veuve!" (As in Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, my favorite champagne!). I glared at her. Yes, Mrs. Society, I know my Champagne. Oh, and thank you for asking about the swelling bruise now the size of an egg protruding from my shin, I truly appreciate it. 

I had been working diligently with my catering coworker, whom I will call Betty, for about an hour when all of a sudden the galley kitchen door opened and in strode a dozen of Philadelphia's finest restaurant and hospitality doyennes. Now this was a galley kitchen it was already cramped with me, Betty, Mrs. Society popping her head it all the time, and several cases of the bubbly stuff. After putting up with the increased crowding for several minutes, I turned to these lovely ladies and stated, "Ladies, we need to get ready for Mrs. Child's arrival, so could you please take this out to the living room, at least temporarily? That would really help Betty and I get ready."  No response and continued talking, cackling, and annoying chattering.  I waited one minute and then exclaimed, "THAT MEANS ALL OF YOU!"  After a number of "Oh my!'s, Who is that young man?, and Well!" they finally all shuffled off to the living room area. Mrs. Society turned and gave me an icy stare before retreating with the rest of them.

Betty left the kitchen and was now out in the middle of 40 ladies trying to pass Champagne. I think I had lost her in a sea of perfectly coiffed and blown out helmets.  Just then, another group of about six women burst into the kitchen. I said under my breath with my backed turned to them, "For the love of God, who is it now!!!!" I whirled around with a bottle of Champagne in each hand getting ready for battle and an older much taller woman asked me, "Boy, can I get a glass of Champagne. Oh I just LOVE Champagne!"  JULIA CHILD!

Julia Child was standing right before me ... or rather, right over me!  At an advanced age, she still was a physically large woman. I handed her a glass of bubbly in a daze and she thanked me and turned to her friends and resumed talking about restaurants, the state of cooking in America that year, and other culinary topics. She did look much older than any recent pictures I had seen, but was very sweet, giving time to the seemingly never ending questions being tossed her way by fawning admirers.

I began to move away to pass Champagne to the ladies in the rest of the apartment and Julia reached out to me, and said with her familiar laugh, "Boy, make sure you come back, I may want more Champagne!"  I replied, "Yes of course Mrs. Child!" 

After circling the affair, I entered the kitchen and there she was, the Grande Dame of the culinary world, holding court in one place where she was probably always most comfortable, the kitchen. She saw me and motioned me over with her glass, "Boy! More Champagne over here please!"  So I was the Champagne Boy. Well, I can tell you I have been called alot of things at these parties, but that is one title I kind of enjoyed. Julia Child's Champagne Boy.  The rest of the "Meet and Greet" event went smooth. I really didn't talk to Mrs. Child. It wasn't my party to socialize with her.  The host, Mrs. Society, was happy because I kept Julia Child happy. Julia was kept busy with lively conversation by the guests, but she did take the time say thank you and good bye to me which I greatly appreciated.

1 comment:

  1. Who knew MYYYY BROTHER got to rub elbows with the Grand Dames Julis Child years before I became a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier. Champagne Boy or not, I will envy his memorable encouter forever!!! LOL!!.......your sister.

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