Feature

Meet the Chefs of “Cooking with Master Chefs”

Julia Child

In her classic program Cooking with Master Chefs, Julia Child shares the kitchen with some of the most well-known and respected chefs of our time. She believed in watching and learning from practiced chefs, gathering ideas from what they demonstrate, and adapting them to our own home kitchens. These master chefs take pride in teaching real, basic techniques that everyday cooks can use successfully in their own kitchens. Learn more about the master chefs and their unique contributions to American cooking in the following biographies.

Meet the Featured Chefs

Lidia Bastianich

Lidia Bastianich

In the early ’80s, when Italian food meant spaghetti and meatballs to most of the country, Lidia Bastianich introduced willing New York palates to the delicacies of regional Northeastern Italian cuisine. Her restaurant Felidia continues to draw crowds by using simple combinations of rustic ingredients treated with the best culinary techniques.

Two of her other restaurants, Becco and Frico, show no signs of slowing down. Maybe it’s because they take after Lidia, who is constantly adding to her culinary repertoire as a cookbook author (La Cucina di Lidia), a lecturer on food anthropology and history, and an editor of The New York Times Magazine insert Celebration of Italy.

Proud of her food-filled heritage, now she shares with us the secrets of her Orecchiette con Broccoli di Rape and Sausages and renowned risotto using the finest traditional flavors of “the old country” in COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS.

Related Link: Read Lidia Bastianich’s full biography on PBS Food

Jan Birnbaum

Jan Birnbaum

When Catahoula opened its doors along with oversized wood-burning ovens in the early ’90s, Jan Birbaum’s inventive American restaurant with a Louisiana flair spiced up the sleepy town of Calistoga, CA. Today, the restaurant is a wine-country institution that integrates intense, bold flavors and subtle, more refined cuisine on a single menu.

His food reflects a wide range of regional cooking experiences with his focused culinary training. As a disciple of Louisiana’s culinary headmaster, Paul Prudhomme, Jan’s career began with four years at K-Paul’s, where he cultivated his expertise for down-home cooking. From this rustic low-country base, he then moved to the world of fine dining at New York’s Quilted Giraffe, Denver’s Rattlesnake Club, and San Francisco’s Campton Place.

In COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, Jan displays both sides of his palette as he demonstrates his Home-Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Egg Tort, Louisiana Sassafras Leg of Lamb, Potato Salsify Pie, and a delicate Citrus Gratin.

Patrick Clark

Patrick Clark

Attempting to make luxury cuisine a little more accessible, Patrick Clark created his own version of “Contemporary American Cuisine” by combining unusual – and sometimes esoteric – edibles and preparations with common comfort foods. The Bush’s were so impressed by his work at The Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington D.C. that they made an unsuccessful attempt to woo him away from his civilian fans and into the White House in the early ’90s.

After training in culinary schools and European kitchens, Patrick had numerous traditional culinary role models, including his chef father. While respectful of these influences, he remained dedicated to exploring his own creativity in the kitchen. Patrick built a national reputation, working his way from New York to Los Angeles and back again to Manhattan, where he last worked at the esteemed Tavern on the Green.

In COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, Patrick Clark dramatically presents a Roulade of Salmon with a deconstructed Gazpacho Sauce and pairs his signature Horseradish Crusted Grouper with his crowd-pleasing Mashed Potatoes.

We are privileged to have Patrick’s segment included in COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, as his career ended prematurely in 1998 when he died of heart failure – a loss to both the culinary community and his loyal following.

Robert Del Grande

Robert Del Grande

Applying balance to kitchen artistry, Robert Del Grande began captivating his Texan clientele in 1981 at Café Annie with his approach to Southwest American cuisine. Robert combines varying flavors and textures by balancing hot with cold and crisp with creamy. These innovative techniques promoted him to the top of Houston’s culinary community.

Primarily self-taught, Robert’s career started in Houston when he picked up a few shifts at his in-laws’ restaurant between his Ph.D. in biochemistry and post-doctorate work. He found his niche and never looked back. In 1992, he opened the Rio Ranch and was saluted by high-profile culinary organizations including James Beard, Nation’s Restaurant News, and Restaurants and Institutions for his imaginative, well-composed plates.

Robert Del Grande shows how he does it in COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, as he prepares Filets of Beef in Chile Sauce and two Southwestern relishes.

Amy Ferguson-Ota

Amy Ferguson

In the early ’90s, when chef Amy Ferguson-Ota began incorporating Hawaii’s edible resources into the center of her plates, tourists and locals alike realized that Hawaiian restaurants had more to offer than tiki torches and umbrella drinks. This native Texan, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu before becoming the first woman chef at the Ritz-Carlton Mauna Lani, became known for her remarkable specialties, folding Hawaiian ingredients into Southwestern preparations using French culinary techniques.

A call from the mainland brought her to Dallas, where she opened Baby Routh restaurant, but the “Aloha Spirit” got the best of her. She returned as the chef of the Hotel Hana in Maui and remains active in the “Hawaii Regional Cuisine Group,” promoting relations between the island’s premier food producers and its chefs to advance Hawaii’s cuisine.

In COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, Amy shows off some of her favorite local specialties, from Puna Green Papaya Salad to Wok-Seared Ono.

Emeril Lagasse

Emeril Lagasse

“Bam!” Emeril Lagasse, a man with his own spice mix, “Essence of Emeril,” has captured America’s attention by storm with his crazy Cajun/Creole cooking and his top-rated TV shows. This Massachusetts native stumbled upon his passion for rustic low-country crawdads and crab boils after spending many years training in refined restaurants throughout France and the northeastern region of the U.S.

Enthusiastically immersing himself in Louisiana culture, Emeril began combining classical culinary practices with local fare as the chef of Commander’s Palace. His following grew when he opened his own restaurants in New Orleans, Emeril’s and NOLA, and continued to expand with his various satellite restaurants in Las Vegas, Nevada and Orlando, Florida.

Acknowledged for his achievements as a chef, cookbook writer, and television host, the culinary community appreciates this northern transplant as much as the rest of the country.

In COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, Emeril, with the intensity of his namesake seasoning, walks us through the basics of Shrimp Étouffée and a Louisiana Boil.

Susan Feniger, Mark Sue Milliken

Feniger and Milliken

Recognized for their bold cuisine and their spicy personalities on the show Too Hot Tamales, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger continue to demonstrate that a woman’s place is in the kitchen – the professional kitchen that is. After entering the culinary world in the late ’70s, they both trained in male-dominated French kitchens in the States and abroad, where they individually honed their traditional French culinary skills.

They met up and collaborated in Los Angeles on two restaurants, first City Café and then CITY, experimenting with ethnic cuisine from Thailand and India. Straying from the familiar flavors of France, Mary Sue and Susan continued to move around the world until they honed in on Mexico and Central America at Border Grill, creating authentic fare with an upscale flair.

The twosome’s popularity has grown beyond L.A.’s borders with two TV programs, a radio show, four cookbooks, and numerous prestigious awards in their field.

In COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger demonstrate their unique recipes from Curry of Spinach and Eggplant to Thai Melon Salad, and give away a few professional tips on maintaining a clean and efficient kitchen as they go.

Jean-Louis Palladin

Jean-Louis Palladin

Bridging a path from his native French culture to “Nouvelle American Cuisine,” Jean-Louis Palladin merged traditional ideas with progressive culinary innovation for over 18 years on the ever-changing menu at his namesake restaurant in the famed Watergate Hotel.

Praise was nothing new to Jean-Louis – he had been honored as the youngest chef to earn two Michelin stars (at 28 years-old) for his restaurant, La Table des Cordeliers, before heading to the States in 1979. Now, with forty years of experience, he is a pioneer in the emerging culinary scene in Las Vegas, where his kitchen tackles sophisticated food with down-to-earth, old-country techniques at his restaurant, Napa.

On the show COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, Jean-Louis shows his range as he converts his fireplace into a cooking source for a roasted duck and serves a rich foie gras with delicately poached apples.

Charles Palmer

Charles Palmer

With a dedication to sourcing the finest locally farmed ingredients, a command of the finest French cooking techniques, and a knack for surprises, Charles Palmer opened his New York City restaurant Aureole at the ripe old age of 28. He has been “wowing” his fans ever since.

Trained at the Culinary Institute of America and in kitchens throughout Europe, Charles was first recognized in the early ’80s for his unique style at The River Café in Brooklyn, where he kicked the ratings up from one to three stars in The New York Times. Since then he has created a small restaurant empire with locations in New York and Las Vegas, developed an award-winning Dairy Farm that produces cheeses and butter, and, of course, penned a notable cookbook that captures his restaurants’ signature dishes on paper.

From the subtle flavor layering in his Pepper Seared Venison Steaks with Pinot Noir and Sun-dried Cherries to his elaborate Chocolate Tarragon Dessert presentation, Charles Palmer presents us with recipes that play up to all of our senses in COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS.

Jacques Pepin

Jacques Pepin

Chef, instructor, author, and TV personality, Jacques Pépin has brought exacting French culinary techniques down to earth for his loyal American following since 1976, when he released his step-by-step cookbook, La Methode.

This native Frenchman is now one of the most influential culinarians in America for both expert and amateur chefs, offering insight into professional techniques and tricks of the trade. Developing an interest in his parents’ restaurant and continuing with official training in his hometown’s Grand Hotel de L’Europe as well as the Plaza Athénée in Paris, Jacques seemed destined to become a masterful chef.

His varied career path has included service as the personal chef for three heads of state in France, working for Howard Johnson’s as the Director of Research and Development, and taking time off to write his James Beard Award-winning cookbooks. All this experience has helped further his success as he has integrated his classic culinary know-how into a variety of circumstances outside of the traditional restaurant business.

Equally charismatic in front of the camera and in the kitchen, in COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS Jacques Pépin shows us how to triumph over the intimidating challenges of puffed pastry and fluffy soufflés. Jacques’ most recent collaboration with Julia Child is their video series and companion cookbook, JULIA AND JACQUES COOKING AT HOME.

Related Link: Read Jacques Pepin’s full biography on PBS Food

Michel Richard

Michel Richard

Disputing the common misconception that French cuisine means fat, butter, and cream, French-born Michel Richard has been translating his native cuisine for a Californian clientele at his Los Angeles restaurant Citrus since the mid-’80s.

By relying on vegetable purees, sauce reductions and herbs, his dishes yield great flavor and substance without the fat. After first striking gold with a fan base of fitness-conscious foodies in L.A., he then cleared a path for his next three restaurants, all named Citronelle, in Santa Barbara, California, Washington D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland.

While much of Michel’s success can be attributed to his culinary calorie cutting, he hasn’t completely forgotten the merits of butter and cream that he learned through years of pastry training back home. A believer in moderate indulgence, Michel clearly still has a place in his heart for chocolate as he chooses to demonstrate two dessert favorites, the Chocolate Dome and Hot Chocolate Truffles, for his segment in the show, COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS.

Nancy Silverton

Nancy Silverton

When loaves of soft white bread stocked bakery shelves and bagels were the biggest breakthrough in breads, Nancy Silverton brought our culinary attention to the soul-satisfying pleasures of artisan baking. She and her chef-husband opened the doors to La Brea Bakery in conjunction with their restaurant Campanile in 1989 after finding no one in the Los Angeles area capable of supplying them with the flavorful crusty loaves that they had sampled in Europe.

Trained at Le Cordon Bleu, Ecole Lenotre, and some of L.A.’s most reputable kitchens, Nancy had become head pastry chef at Spago in the late ’80s, but still yearned to make good bread.

Nancy immersed herself into starters, yeasts, and doughs, and quickly became L.A.’s leading lady of bread baking. Now, she supplies fresh, rustic loaves to L.A.’s finest restaurants and frozen par-baked loaves to supermarkets throughout the nation.

In COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, Nancy Silverton demystifies the art of bread baking with a demonstration of her starter, a few focaccia snacks, and an olive loaf.

Andre Soltner

Andre Soltner

The year 1961 was a big one for French cuisine in America. The Kennedy family dined on it in the White House, Julia Child wrote about it in her first cookbook, and André Soltner cooked it up for New York’s elite as the new head chef of Lutèce.

This young Alsatian chef was among the first to cultivate America’s taste for the art of fine cuisine. Over four decades, André remained true to his impeccably executed classical menu, churning out exquisite food while training generations of future chefs in his highly disciplined kitchen. It’s not surprising that he has been consistently showered with high praises and awards recognized around the world.

Fortunately, COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS has captured some of his hometown specialties from his Lutèce Cookbook as he demonstrates Tarte Flambée and Alsatian Meat Stew on the show.

Jeremiah Tower

Jeremiah Tower

Offering unique and daily-changing menus at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse in the early ’70s, and later at his own San Francisco gem, Stars, Jeremiah Tower became a crusader for “California Regional Cuisine,” which emphasizes the use of locally grown ingredients to elevate simple dishes to fine delicacies. He began his rise to culinary stardom without any formal culinary training to his name, instead relying on his basic common sense, appreciation for great food, and unshakable confidence.

In the program COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS, Jeremiah gets down to basics, showing some simple but elegant poultry preparations in the oven, with a Casserole Roasted Chicken, on the stovetop, and over the grill.

Alice Waters

Alice Waters

In 1971, long before many Americans had developed a taste for spicy arugula greens and earthy chanterelle mushrooms, Alice Waters opened her revolutionary restaurant Chez Panisse, committed to menus that celebrate the best-tasting, finest-quality, and, sometimes, most exotic products found each season. Falling in love with farmer’s markets while visiting France, Alice’s modest training began when she experimented in her own kitchen with the fresh flavors of just-picked organic produce.

Back in the states, Alice found few sources for the high-grade ingredients to which she had become accustomed, so she worked with farmers, ranchers, and fishermen to forage for the best they could provide. The world became her market. Named “Best Chef in America” in 1992 by the James Beard Foundation, she and her cookbooks, the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook and Chez Panisse Vegetables, continue to earn supreme praise.

Chef, activist, and teacher of sustainable agriculture, in COOKING WITH MASTER CHEFS Alice Waters shows the simplicity of creating masterpieces from seasonal ingredients with her Beet, Blood Orange, Walnut, and Rocket Salad and a medley of shaved fennel and mushrooms.