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Celebrate, Life is a Journey
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La Belle Cuisine
"Life itself is the proper binge."
For some time now I have given considerable thought to Julia Child’s
imminent – and eminent – 90th birthday celebration. Even managed to jot down
a line or two in tribute and intended to finalize it this weekend. And then
came the Times-Picayune piece (following). That did it. I’ve decided
it speak for itself, as well as for Julia Child.
How honored we were to have one of Julia’s birthday celebrations right
in New Orleans. We were privileged as well to have a chef of Michael Lomonaco’s stature visit to co-host the Birthday Bash and reminisce about
the city responsible for his culinary epiphany.
Just a word or two though, based on my own experience: Gigi, (my
rest her soul) literally forced “Mastering the Art of French
edition, okay?) on me at a tender age. Thanks to Gigi's
foresight, I am blessed
to be among
those (and we are many) who owe
a tremendous debt of gratitude to Julia
Child for her tireless guidance,
enlightenment, inspiration, and
encouragement through the decades.
She set a tremendous example for us, not
only with her culinary expertise, but also with her marvelous sense of humor, lack of
"Attitude" as she became a world-renowned figure, and her indomitable grace
in sticky situations.
Bloopers such as “First you take a leek…”
would perhaps have destroyed
the career of those less self-assured than our Julia.
Long may she reign.
"Julia's no child -- she's 90!
Legendary culinarian toasted at birthday bash"
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans,
LA, August 8, 2002
By Dale Curry, Food editor
“As chef Michael Lomonaco lovingly turned out some of Julia Child's favorite
dishes at Cobalt restaurant in New Orleans Thursday night, he recalled her
influence on his life.
" ‘I grew up watching Julia on TV,’ said the New Yorker, who was director of
chefs at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center, and guest chef
for the dinner celebrating her 90th birthday. ‘I was 10, 11 and 12 years
old, watching Julia, the French chef, and I was always absorbed with her,
her easiness, her frankness, her way of making it seem do-able.’
So, at her birthday celebration, he credited her as a major influence on his
career, along with New Orleans.
Before Lomonaco was a chef, he was an actor. And, on one night in 1975,
after performing at the Saenger Theater in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ ‘I had
an epiphany,’ he said.
Here for a total of 36 hours, a span during which he never slept, he found
way to a restaurant. "I have no idea which one," but the 20-year-old did
how to order.
‘I had my first bowl of gumbo,’ he said, and that was followed at the same
seating by two more bowls of gumbo, an order of
‘I fell in love with American cooking with that meal in New Orleans,’ he
Shortly after, he enrolled in culinary school at City University in New York
and swapped the stage for a kitchen.
Lomonaco narrowly escaped death on Sept. 11, 2001, with a bizarre change of
course that kept him on the first floor instead of the top floor of tower
where he usually checked in at 8:15 a.m.
‘Instead of going upstairs as I normally would, I made a last-minute
decision. I needed new glasses. Mine were scratched and were bothering me,’
In the concourse beneath the towers, he turned into a Lens Crafters shop and
just as the optometrist was finishing up with him, the evacuation began.
"I heard a rumble, but I mistook it for the subway, which runs under the
building," he said. Confused, he moved with the crowd out of the building,
later, he turned back to see the second airliner slice through
tower No. 2.
‘I made a right turn instead of a left turn into the building. It's as
simple as that and that's what saved my life,’ he said. Of the hundreds of
employees of Windows on the World, 79 were killed.
On the sleeve of his chef's white coat, Lomonaco wears a blue badge
that says, "Windows of Hope." It signifies the worldwide restaurant support
campaign for families of those 79 employees. So far, 5,000 restaurants
including some in New Orleans have raised $19 million, some of which has
gone directly to families, with the rest invested for educating their
One supporting chef was
Susan Spicer of
restaurants, who with chef
Brack May prepared the Julia Child dinner with Lomonaco. Cobalt was one of 20 nationwide restaurants, each with a celebrity
guest chef, that simultaneously celebrated the legendary culinarian's
birthday. Child attended one at the Fifth Floor Restaurant with Masa's in
San Francisco while diners in all locations were treated to a tape of her
Known for her bloopers and occasional accidents on the air, Child has long
been considered a great sport, undaunted by embarrassment and always honest
and frank. For Lomonaco, it was her passion for food and wine that inspired
Some of her favorites that Lomonaco, Spicer and Brack selected for the meal
were warm rabbit liver paté, fish escabeche, roasted milk-fed veal, chèvre
with roasted figs and apple pancake gateau.
The best part of her day was lunch, Lomonaco said, and he frequently
prepared it while executive chef at the 21 Club in New York.
‘She enjoyed lunch. It was time for her glass of chardonnay, oysters on the
half-shell and poached bass,’ he recalled.
The 21 Club was a special place for Child because she and her husband Paul
went directly there when she returned from work with the Office of Strategic
Services (OSS) during World War II.
‘It was the first place she went after docking in America; they went to have
drinks at the 21 Club,’ he said.
Lomonaco, who has cooked with Child on her ‘Cooking with Master Chefs’
television series, is currently consultant for Noche, a Latin-themed
on Times Square.
Child's actual birthday is August 15. Proceeds from the celebrations last
will benefit the Julia Child Endowment Fund for culinary research in
The fund is administered by the International Association of
Culinary Professionals (IACP), an organization of which Child was a founder,
sponsor of the birthday events...
Times-Picayune. Used with permission.
“Just as in music and theater, a classical food background
helps you find
your own freedom.”
~ Michael Lomonaco
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
You did not imagine for one moment that I would leave
you with no
Julia recipes, did you? Perish the thought!
Here they are. Bon
happy eating. Toast Julia with a glass of your favorite Chardonnay.
Here's to your health as well. And until next time, remember,
“Once you have mastered a technique,
you hardly need look at a recipe again.”
~ Julia Child, in "Julia's Kitchen
A Tribute to Julia
"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think
of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I
am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the
love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and
fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one."
~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating
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