Her Particular Genius was For Appreciation

By Bryan Carr, Pomme Restaurant, St. Louis

Julia Child was a cook. To my mind she was the best kind of cook because of all of her talents her particular genius was for appreciation. She was lucky enough to encounter cooking at just the right time and place.

She was smart and clear-headed enough to see it right away for what it is—taking something good and fixing it up for people to enjoy. She was appreciative enough to not need for cooking to be something else; not a metaphor for some more arcane notion, not an avenue for self-assertion, not an expression of creativity.

When I think of what I’ve learned from Mrs. Child four words come to mind: respect, generosity, craftsmanship and appreciation. I find that when I can cook with those four virtues my attention is more focused, my skills are sharper, the food is better and my guests and I are happier. I had a few conversations with Mrs. Child and cooked lunch for her a handful of times. The natural thing for someone in her position would have been to assume that I was another claim on her celebrity but that was not her way. She generously greeted me and wanted to know what I thought and to ask why and how I had cooked something the way I had. It was an act of appreciation and generosity. Cooking well requires generously welcoming in that which is before us so that we can better appreciate it. Once this is done respect follows naturally.

Chef Bryan Carr with Julia Child and Hubert Keller.

Craftsmanship follows appreciation and respect. How else can we cook well except to cook with close attention to our work? A wonderful story of the great French chef, Joel Robuchon, is of the time he studied and onion before cutting it. “What are you doing?” someone asked. You’ve cut thousands of onions before.” “Yes,” he said. “But I’ve never cut this one before.”

Julia Child met cooking and people that way. She met the world that way. In Pomme Restaurant is a small framed quote from the St. Louis poet, Howard Nemerov. The line reads, “…finding again the world, that is the point.” Julia Child knew the world as our wonderful place for finding, again and again. She shows up smiling and laughing in images on pages and images in our minds. She reminds us that the world is interesting and fun and good. That is her lasting gift to us.

In the end what we cooks do is cook. There is plenty of extraneous diversion and digression available to lure us away but we cook best when we simply cook. This is not a simplistic idea. When we cook honestly and attentively a world opens up to us and the possibilities are endless.

About Bryan Carr and Pomme Restaurant

At Pomme, a rich tradition, a contemporary style and nature’s bounty are the sources. Your dining pleasure is the result. We’ve often been asked the story behind our name, Pomme. The word means apple in French. There really isn’t a story except that we like the sound of pomme, pronounced “pom”. We like the colors of apples and you’ll find them in our room. We like the smallness of the name. We opened during the apple harvest. We like the simple and complex associations.

About Julia Child Restaurant Week

Julia Child Restaurant week features more than 100 restaurants across the country and honors the contributions and legacy of Ms. Child. Events will kick off on August 7 and run through her 100th birthday on August 15. Each restaurant will feature special menus or events inspired by the 100 most beloved Julia Child recipes. To learn more and see what restaurants are participating near you, visit: jc100.tumblr.com.