Butter to the Core

PBS Food asks Chef Danielle Forestier, of Bonpain, about her time with Julia Child on the show, “Baking with Julia.” In the midst of the Julia Child 100th Birthday Celebration, Forestier pays tribute to her legacy.

When studying for my BM (Brevet de Maîtrise-Master Baker) certification in Paris in 1976, one of my professors was R. Calvel who was also Julia’s consultant when she was working on French Bread for Mastering, Vol. II. When I left Paris to open a French bakery in St. Barbara, he introduced us. Paul and Julia wintered in St. Barbara, so the opportunity to share meals together was irresistible to all of us. At dinner, Paul never wanted to share what he ordered, or taste what anyone else ordered, but the rest of us couldn’t refrain from sharing tastes. That meant we could never order 6 or 8 different entrees on the menu: one always had to be duplicated or we wouldn’t get to taste it!

My bakery was newly opened when we met face to face. As the months passed in opening a new enterprise, several times Julia’s infallible taste perception helped me to perfect the change from French ingredients to American ones when creating French breads and pastries. The butter was particularly difficult as our butter flavor was more understated and therefore had to be used in greater quanities. She picked up on a too subtle butter flavor right away.

I think what made it easy for Julie to be such a dear, and good, friend was her complete absence of ‘ego’ and self-importance. She was, to the core, someone completely comfortable in her own person and didn’t ever seem to have a need to be the expert, or know more, or better, than another, or impress anyone. She had a character truly at ease and honest to herself. She was comfortable with Julia and who Julia was. It was such a surprise when the first time they had dinner at our house she asked me how I had prepared and cooked the rabbits.

I’m sure it was partly due to this characteristic of her personality that her marriage to Paul was such an inspiration. They supported one another in each other’s strong places and tolerated the others without disparagement. Contemplating my second marriage I asked her for a talisman to aim for this same nurturing comfort in a partnership. She lent me a tiny box with an enameled cat on it and a brand new penny inside it and I wore this old/new/borrowed/blue box trinket pinned to my petticoat under my wedding dress. Of course the box sits comfortably around reminding me of a true friend and providing inspiration for achieving the ‘good life’ she found and then enjoyed because of the kind of centered, unselfish and gentle person she was.

Thank you for this opportunity to share beautiful and loving memories of a beautiful and loving person.

Watch Julia Child and Danielle Forestier

About Danielle Forestier

Daniel_Forestier_Headshot_sizedDanielle Forestier was the first woman (and the first American) to receive certification as a Maître Boulanger (Master Baker). She opened the bakery Les Belles Miches in Santa Barbara that quickly became a standard bearer for quality French breads and pastries. Closing the bakery in 1982, Danielle became a consultant to the bakery industry.