Julia Child Invited Us To Share Her Curiosity

From Chef Carmen Quagliata, Union Square Café

What do I think of and how do I feel when I hear Julia Child’s name? I can sum it all up in saying that, ever since I started watching re-runs of her cooking show as a young teenager, I’ve always gotten the impression that she’s inviting us to share in her curiosity, unbridled enthusiasm, optimism and passion for cooking. She made cooking at a high level easier and more approachable for generations of food lovers.

Those cooking shows made me laugh and made me hungry well before I thought of doing this forever. Whether it was the way she slowed her weekly class to quietly draw you into the pot of Boeuf Bourguignon to admire the color and consistency of the sauce, or barely being able to lift the cleaver that she dropped on the massive cod carcass stretched across her cutting board to make fish stock, I would find myself in a happy trance watching her.

As I went through my training in culinary school and different kitchen posts, I stopped watching her shows but our paths crossed when I had the opportunity to cook for her and Jacques Pepin as a young Sous Chef while working at Tra Vigne in the Napa Valley. I was able to meet her and her praise for the lunch was inspiring. A few years later, something magical happened. Julia came back to Tra Vigne and after her meal walked right into the kitchen. As the printer wildly spit out the anxiety-causing stream of dupes in the middle of the evening’s busiest rush, we all stopped frozen in our tracks. She proceeded to walk down the hot line and through the kitchen to shake everyone’s hand and say a few kind and inspiring words. This larger than life Chef had become a mentor to all cooks, professional and amateur alike, since I first watched her on TV in the mid 1980’s. Her legend had grown beyond imagination. I was running service that night and as she exited the kitchen I ripped that kite tail stream of tickets and cooked as hard and happy as I ever have with a crew of cooks. That’s what Julia would’ve done….with a big smile and not worrying about a thing along the way.

By Danny Meyer, Union Square Café

Back in 1990, when my first restaurant Union Square Cafe was only five years old, Julia Child came to my then-apartment to tape a “Good Morning America” segment in my kitchen. Afterwards, Julia and I walked to Union Square Cafe for lunch. Throughout the walk, cab drivers kept honking to say hello to Julia. I had never seen anything quite like that before. After we arrived at Union Square Cafe, we drank TWO bottles of Beaujolais. She had the braised short ribs…and ate lots of bread and butter. Twenty two years later, I still vividly remember that surreal day I spent with Julia Child.

About Carmen Quagliata

Raised in upstate New York, Carmen Quagliata has been eating and cooking Italian food since he was a child. Carmen attributes much of his food memories to the matriarchs of his family – from the aroma of his mom’s fresh-baked Easter breads to his grandmother’s homemade sausages and the wild oregano and oil-cured olives sent by relatives in Sicily. He is the Executive Chef and Partner of Union Square Cafe.

About Danny Meyer

Danny Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, which includes Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard, Shake Shack, The Modern, The Museum of Modern Art’s Cafe 2 and Terrace 5, Maialino, Untitled at the Whitney Museum of American Art, North End Grill as well as Union Square Events and Hospitality Quotient, a learning business. Danny, his restaurants, and his chefs have earned an unprecedented 25 James Beard Awards.

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.