Transcript:

Speaker 1 OK, it actually comes after a career that started by Jim, but I

Speaker 2 don't think we're going to

Speaker 1 get that OK. I started see in 1990 to actually I started it to try to upgrade the palate of America because I had written a cookbook at home with the French classics after 15 years of teaching French cooking for Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. And I had people in my classes, like Jim had people in his that were there to listen and learn. And when I traveled around the country with the book, I found out that the people that came to my demonstrations where I was selling the book really didn't have any interest in French cooking. I don't like French cooking. I like Italian cooking. I'm a meat and potatoes person. I don't like fish. And I realized that the average American's palate was very narrow. And you could see that in the fast food that we had, hamburgers, pizza and fried chicken. And I went to an ICP conference. And at that conference I heard a prediction of the future of cooking in America given by somebody from Campbell's Soup. And they said that we'd have to cook with kitchens of the future, beautiful homes, beautiful kitchens, nobody using, everybody using microwaves at different times of the day, no families not sitting down to the table together. And I left that conference in a rather deep funk because as an educator, that was a horrible projection for the future. And then my book came out and I went on a tour and I traveled about 15 cities. And that's where I saw the the actual narrowing of the palate of America. And about three months later, I was taking a shower and my my brother told me that when he turned 50, he's two and a half years older and he's a sculptor. And he said, when I turned 50, I saw the end of my life. I had all this sculpture in my mind and I had this process of time on me to to accomplish that and happen to me. But that morning, I was taking a shower and a light bulb goes off and question comes and says, if you could do anything in the latter part of your life to change that forecast, what would it be? And immediately I said, I have to get into schools. And so what would you do in schools? Well, I would start in elementary school and teach sensory evaluation how to use your five senses and as a vehicle to teaching that I would use fruits and vegetables. You got colors, shapes, sound, touch, all the things that you need for for the five senses because you're in cooking, you use all your senses. And as you teach kids about the ingredients, you can teach nutrition much better than putting it in a pyramid or a railroad cart to get the point across after somebody tasted and they say, well, what's our what does that mean and what's bitter? The iron in the spinach and that's good for blood, etc.. So I started talking to people about that and educators said, Richard, that's too esoteric. We can never do that. And I said, yeah, but if we could if teachers could learn how to teach sensory, it could be used not only with food. As the child grows, their ears would be attuned for music. Their eyes would be attuned for art and architecture. Their tastes could be used in many different ways. It could it could broaden a person's life. Even if they didn't have any money. It could make life more enjoyable, more meaningful. I would I forecast that students would be turning down their volume on their earphones rather than turning it up because they'd be attuned anyway. Then I thought about middle school and middle school. I thought the easy to use the foods of the world to teach geography, history, social differences and a place to. Do things to the palate and then in high school, if we had a student that had both a palate ballot and a passion, we could train them for the industry quite easily. But I knew that home economics was in terrible shape. I knew that at least I hope that my book was readable at the high school level. So I went to the board of Ed and my wife had been a teacher. So she came with me and we went to the board of Ed and I proposed teaching the teacher's recipes from my book to upgrade the type of food that they were doing. And I said, that's great, great idea, but we don't have any money. I said, Can I go into one of your schools? Yeah, we went into Prospect Heights High School and they walk a lot.

Speaker 2 Sorry, you know, Portrayer squished back there. That's comfortable. And then I will not move. Yeah. Maybe went to that

Speaker 1 place and went to Prospect Heights High School and they locked me in the classroom because in those days they didn't want students in and out of classrooms. And when I walked in, I saw there was a group of students on the left making bread and a group of students at a large desk. I mean, table learning English. They were all Haitian, had just arrived and the boats came from Haiti. And I just didn't interrupt the teacher while he was teaching. And I walked around and I opened drawers and I opened cabinets and I saw there was nothing there. So I understood what the board of Ed was saying. They didn't have any money. So I went to the teacher and I said I introduced myself. Richard groundsMEn taught French cooking for 15 years for the court on the parents. If there was something I could do to help you in your in your teaching, in your class, what would it be? And he laughed at me and I said, Why? He said, I use my own money today to buy the flour. So that really impressed on me, the state of the education. So I went back to my office and over the years I had met many manufacturers because my classes were sponsored by department stores not on the floor, but in auditoriums. And they would always ask me for my advice as far as products to have on hand to sell to the students. And I called up Cuisinarts, I called the Mustaf, I called them Faulkner, I called up Calphalon and I said. You know, what I want to do is to help these kids and the teachers, we help me and they said, yeah. And he said we've always wanted to help the schools, but we didn't know how to give them money. They spend it, you product, they lose it. But if you have a program, we'll we'll support you. So that that was the first thing the teachers began to receive packages and they said it was like Christmas and Hanukkah all put together that, you know, no one in the past that had promised something had to deliver it for them. So they were impressed and they began to pay attention to me. I then took them for a day and gave them demonstrations in the morning, like something like a cocoa souffle and omelet that to me to show them different techniques. And then I had them repeat that in the afternoon where I saw that their skills were all over the place and no good to fair. So I arranged with Dorothy kind of French Culinary Institute to have a series of classes for them. They were on Saturday, one Saturday. I don't know if it was every Saturday or one Saturday a month for quite some time to for them to learn basic skills. It's about the same time I asked Dorothy to if we could get a scholarship, because I thought that something at the end of the year culminating in the program would be good. If I could get a scholarship for a student, I would be terrific. And she told me that she was in Chapter 11 with the Apex schools that her father had left her and that she didn't have time to talk to me. So the next step, I went into the classroom and I started to watch the first. So I gave it. I went to the classroom and I gave a demonstration to the students and I would say. Almost 50 to 75 percent of the students didn't pay any attention. Some of them were sleeping somewhere. They had if they had headphones, they would have been on their phones. But they they weren't paying attention. But they were a few students with eyes directly on me listening to every word. And then I watched them cook afterwards and thought, Hey, mister, did you like what I just did when you taste this for me? And I said, What are you going to do after high school? What do you want to do? I don't know. And that's when I found out students in these classes were the students that the school system had failed D and F's at best, no preparation for a future some of them couldn't even read. I found that out the second year and I was just furious at the school system that couldn't teach kids to read by the time they come to high school. And this was after high school, you know, seniors. And so I said, You ever think of cooking? Can I and I hadn't worked in the industry, I'd gone to the Cordon Bleu to learn to become a chef, but while I was there, I realized that I was too slow. And I at the age of 28, I wasn't going to push myself to become faster because I enjoyed the pizza that I cooked at. And I did. I thought a lot when I cooked. I thought about everything. And that doesn't make a good chef. You have to be automatic. So it was at that time that I started thinking, well, what else can I do with my love of cooking? And I looked around and there was James Beard, Michael Field, Deontae Lucas, all people who had changed careers and were teaching and writing. So I told the head of the Bleu, you know, that's what I wanted to do. And I left. And that led to my becoming her representative, but not having the experience in a restaurant to know exactly what was needed for entry level. I went out to dinner, a small French restaurant on Lexington Avenue, and asked the chef owner, what's the opportunities for high school graduates for entry level jobs? And he says, you've got to be kidding me. I said, why? He says, Look at my kitchen. I'm importing labor from Asia and South America much prefer to have a New York kid that speaks English. I said, what do you need? I need to show up on time. So what else shows up on time? I'll teach him. I said, what about knife skills? Oh, if he has knife skills, he doesn't have to start on the dishwasher. So that gave me the idea of how I could convince parents and administrators that I wasn't training their students for a dishwasher job, but I was training them for a prep job and. I think around April at the Julia Child Cookbook Awards announcements, and I was at the Rainbow Room, then I saw Dorothy across the crowded room and she came running to me and she said, Richard Julia's, Julia's producer on Good Morning America, passed away of cancer and left me an endowment. And I want to give the first scholarship to one of your students. And I was oh, my God, Dorothy came just at the right time. And I said, Can I use your kitchens for a competition? Sure, sure. Can you give us a lunch for an award ceremony in your dining room? Richard, you're asking for too much. But OK, so that first competition, we had chefs from different restaurants. We had I had Jacques Pepin as our speaker for the awards. I can remember Jack's words. Was he talking to the students as a cook? You will be welcome all over the world. And which is so true and a great inspiration. And with that scholarship, I also I had arranged a trip to Paris, all expense paid for a teacher and student and a week at the Cordon Bleu. So with that, I was able to get NBC to film the competition, the awards, and come to Paris and shoot at the school. And that ended up on nightly nightly news, the end of one of the programs. And next day I got a call from Washington, D.C. I saw your program on NBC. Can we get it down here? I said, how many schools do you have? Why eight high schools, seven middle schools and one elementary school. I said, oh, my God, I want to try everything down there. So I said, why not now? And I went down and got the American Culinary Federation to become partners and mentors for students and go into the schools like supermarkets to give product. So I put the pieces together and got the program going. And by that time, I visited Johnson and Wales and CIA and the second year I remember vividly that I'd gone to Johnson Wales. And he said, yeah, we will give you a thousand dollars for every student you send us. I said, that's not going to get you any of our students. Our students need full tuition scholarships, otherwise they're not coming. One of the administrators says, you're right, we'll we'll give you one. And and I said, well, we'll make sure they have a good GPA. And and then I went to Culinary Institute and they said, no, we can't give you any scholarships. We we give scholarships to students who come and need it, but we can't give you a scholarship to give out. I think a week after that, I get a letter from one of the administrators that I had had lunch with and said we were rethinking and we'd like to give it a try. We'd like to you need a student with a 3.0, you need a minority student, and we need to interview that student. And I said, but I called them up. I said, this is wonderful. But the interview part is difficult because we have the competition one day and two days later we have the awards breakfast. And the surprise aspect of it is so important. I know we would have to interview. So two days later I called them up because I had made my New York competition and I didn't I mean, I didn't realize I didn't realize that I would find somebody in that competition. But halfway through the the prep area, I spotted a young woman extremely well dressed because the year before the chefs complained about them being in aprons. And, you know, that's not professional. So I dressed them up. And the chefs at all these students are much better than. Last year, only because of the whites, but this girl look really good. So I ran out and I got her transcript and I never expected to find it a stupid. But sure enough, her grades were 3.0 or better. I said, oh, my goodness, I now have oh, they had to have work to work. And I said she worked it all. A letter from Mayor Dinkins commending her on her work at the what's the mayor's house, Gracie? In a letter commending her for her work at Gracie Mansion and. I said, thank you, Lord, so I had all the pieces and I called the school and they said, no, it's impossible. You couldn't have found somebody so quickly, we're thinking maybe this will be for next year. I said, well, I have no competition, but I found the perfect person for it. So they insisted on interview. They interviewed her in my office and she said, I think you're right, Richard. I think you have the right person. So that was the beginning of my ability to raise scholarships from the culinary schools, the kids that we sent were students at these schools never had before, they did well. They were focused, excelled, and they've been continuing to give us scholarships ever since, which is tremendously rewarding when you think that we gave maybe twenty five thousand in that first year and we're giving over three million a year for the past, how many years? I think we're up to 45 million in the 24 years that we've been doing this. And that's so transformative in the lives of the students. But I found out that where I thought just giving a student a scholarship to the CIA would change their lives. Oftentimes it would cause a lot of problems because I was sending a student from a very poor community into a wealthy community and the social adjustments and some of them couldn't handle it. So I had to find a way to get somebody at the school to greet that person and introduce them. And eventually I had to bring somebody in to be a college advisor, to work with the students in preparing and preparing them for college and then following them through to make sure that their GP's stayed where they needed to be and if they started to drop to get mentors for them, etc.. So over the years, it's the SEEKAMP has grown organically. I'm the type of person I see a problem. I saw a problem in the classroom. I addressed it. I see a problem. The students life, when they got a job beginning, we'd set students up with jobs and call a week later. How are you doing? Oh, I quit. I said, well, you mean you quit? They talk to me badly. They they yelled at me and I my mother told me never to let anybody yell at them, yell at me. And I just walked out. I got that call the chef. And what happened? Well, you know, bits of service. And I yell at everybody. And so we had to wait to prepare the students to be yelled at, tell to understand the nature of kitchen in pie mode, the pressures that go through the first year. I remember sending students out to our summer job and the chef said, yeah, it shows up on time. No, no problem there. But what he's done, what I asked him to do, he goes out and has a smoke or sits down. He's got to come to me and show me he wants to work. So I built that in the program. And next year we have shows up on time, very eager. He's always saying, what's next, chef? What's next, chef? But he's not thinking. He's not asking me why I'm using this onion instead of that one or this mushroom instead of that mushroom he has to want to learn. So I built that into it. Next year we were in Chicago, just open Chicago and usually take some of the judges from our competition out with the administrators of the program to hear what's going on and took out a African-American chef who had gone through the Chicago system, gone to Washburn Community College and was now the executive chef of Motorola Foodworks, which was the in-house food service for Motorola. And the administrator was African-American woman Martha a day. Well, and during dinner, Martha says, Richard, why don't you take more of our kids in the summer, which I said, well, I used to, Martha, but you're teaching them the wrong things. She said, What do you mean, go ahead. One of your boys last summer and Stockpot spilled. I asked them to get them up and turned to me, says, I don't do floors. And Martha, without a blink of an eye, said, Well, he shouldn't have to. And I immediately knew what the problem that Richard was having. And I wasn't quite sure what the problem, Martha. But the next day I was giving out scholarships and I said, you know, the biggest problem that I hear from the industry is. Problem of attitude, kids are coming out of the CIA, Johnson and Wales, they want to be chefs, they don't want to chop onions, they don't want to peel carrots. And most of you told me you wanted to be an executive chef. I want to have your own restaurant. Some of you said you wanted to have a chain of restaurants. I said if you have your own restaurant and the dishwasher doesn't show up, you're washing dishes. If the janitor doesn't show up, you're cleaning toilets. So if you don't know how to wash dishes or clean toilets, I want you to go home tonight and ask your mother to show you how. And I was rather shocked. After the breakfast, there was a minister, a board member, a grandparent, a parent and a teacher all came up to me, not all together. And each one said, thank you for talking to our kids the way you did. And I said, What's that? Well, you told them what life is all about. And I said, Why aren't you? And they said, We're afraid. I didn't I didn't understand what they were afraid of until I investigated and found out that because the dropout rate in high school was so high. Parents and administrators were promising their kids that if you graduate from high school, you won't have to do what I did or what your grandparents did and you'll be paid much more. They left out the piece. You do that, you graduate and you start where I started, but you won't go much further. So that entry level work ethic was taken out of the equation. And I found out it wasn't only in public schools. My daughter that Jennifer that year graduated from Duke and they had their jobs starting in the summer. And this was in September. And she and two friends were complaining about the work they were doing. And I didn't go to Duke for four years to be standing on a copier for five hours a week or five hours a day. I didn't go to Duke to be filing papers all day, and I didn't go to Duke to be answering crazy telephone calls. I said, girls entry level. I said, the only way to learn about your company is to keep your eyes and ears open, do what you're doing and you won't be there very long. But nobody at Duke wanted to tell them or prepare them for that. They all come out of the school. I'm going to be a, you know, a hundred thousand dollar consultant or something like that. So education in America was leaving out a very important part. And for our industry was filled with immigrants who, you know, had no problem starting at the bottom. And it locked out a lot of people that wanted to get into the industry because you have to start at the bottom. You have to do the preliminaries first. Everybody in the kitchen has to work as a team. And if you've never done dishes, you don't respect the person that's doing the dishes, been in kitchens with cooks and chefs, throw things at the dishwasher because he's lonely. You know, I might be Mexican down in Arizona. I saw that years and years ago. And and I was I spoke to one chef and he said, no, I don't get it. I get imported labor to do the dishes. And another chef that said when I saw that happening, my dishwasher was out. One day I jumped into the pit, put on my rubber gear and did the dishes. And when people were throwing dishes at me, I put on my tux. He was in front of the house and I called them all into the dining room, said who was doing the dishes? And nobody could say that he was doing the dishes. I said, Because you don't respect noticed the person doing that, you're all going to do the dishes. And so one part that I regret in some ways is that I prepared these kids to be prep cooks and some of them haven't done dishes. But most nowadays, when they get a summer job in their junior year, they're doing dishes along with some prep and so forth. And when they tell me in an interview that they, you know, have worked in the industry, oh, I've only been a dishwasher. I said, well, tell me about that. Did you like it? Oh, yeah. It was very it was a lot of. Energy I had I had to get the dishes out for service, and when we are busy, it was a real challenge. And it's so important now, though, you know, 17 or 16 and you get that feeling. I have no fear that that person is going to do well in the industry. So we've over the years, we've had training for teachers. Each year we try to introduce them to new things, new technology. We have a summer job training. We have shadow days during the year where we take large numbers of students and put them into industry kitchens for the day. And that by itself can inspire or change a student's direction. We do training for the competitions, teachers work on that, and we have the competitions, the scholarship awards. And then we we have, you know, free training for college. We follow the kids through college. We try to keep up with them when they graduate, help place them. We now have a job career developer that we call who helps them find the right job. And we're beginning now to have students that are negotiating contracts to be an executive chef. I don't know what to do tell. So we have pro bono legal service for them at that level. One has his own restaurant and others are thinking about it. So we advise them on their finance and funding. So we we talk about a sea cap student once in sea cap here and seek out for life. And it's a it's a matter of mentoring, connecting the I'm really so blessed to have be in an industry that is so giving. It's a hospitality industry. And if you're in it and you're good, you think of others. And so practically everyone I've gone to over the years and told them we needed help here, out there and. Sure. And finding the right match connect. It's so smooth and so fabulous. I mean, I started by myself and even with the numbers, even with twenty five on our staff around the country. Now, we do so much for so many students because of all the connections and keeping keeping those connections together hard every year we have to reconnect. So it was easy for me to start the program. I started the seven programs we have in the first five years and now it's twenty four years later and the programs are still not funded, fully funded. We're fully funded in New York, but the Chicago, the L.A., the Arizona, Philadelphia, the DC, the Tidewater, we have very small staffs and to do a good job, we need to raise the funding locally and do it. And that's it's a hard sure.

Speaker 2 I'm really grateful that I.

Speaker 1 Did I tell you too much. No, no, that's great.

Speaker 2 Anybody any chefs that came out of the program that

Speaker 1 are stars your star. Oh, yeah.

Speaker 2 Tell us a few of the success

Speaker 1 stories where we are. You know, it's tough to develop in the career takes time. And in the first few years, we didn't I mean, in the first few years, we didn't have a lot of talent. And over the years, in fact, the the teacher that I first went to class, I first went into to see what was going on was a teacher by the name of Terry Maxus, and he perhaps has been one of our most prolific trainers of students. And out of his class came Imahara Santana. Amar'e was a student from a Dominican family who came up here. They had they lived on a dirt floor. Thatch hut, came to Brooklyn, one room apartment, I think four or five people, father became. A truck driver for Borås had always wanted his son to follow him in high school. He got into this class accidentally. The teacher spotted talent, put him in our competition as a junior. I saw a talent and I sent him to London, to the Cordon Bleu with the teacher, came back. He was all fired up, went to the CIA, did an internship with Charlie Palmer, got out of school, got a job with Charlie after about six months or a year, came to me, says, I'm going to quit, I'm going to go someplace else. I said, Why? There's no growth on the sous chef. The cooks have been here. The sous chefs been here. The executive chef has been here. I don't I don't see my filling those positions. I said, have you told Charlie? He said, no. I said, well, speak to him. I wrote a note to Charlie. I said, If you like Amar, you better speak to him. Oh, I had a lunch with Charlie and he said, be patient. A couple of months. He was elevated to sous chef after a year or two came to me. So I'm leaving. And I said, why don't he's been here for years and no, no chance of growing. I want to I want I'm anxious. So I said, have you spoken to Charlie? No, I said better. So after a lunch with Charlie, he called me up. He says, hey, he's got all plans for me. He wants me to go with him around the country and open three restaurants, one in Vegas, one in Houston. And then in two years, he wants to open one in Orange County, California. He wants me to be a chef. Fantastic. So he went out there and I always tell students at one tell me they want their own restaurant. I always ask them, how are you going to do it? And they said, well, I got out of college. I'm going to get my friends and family and we're going to put up a restaurant. I said, no. I said, that's the easiest way to lose your friends and family because your chances of being successful are very small. And if they invest and you lose their money, they're gone. I said the way to get a restaurant of your own is to become a great chef. And when people are coming to your restaurant to say, I'm going to do Jayson's because Tom is cooking tonight, when that happens, people will be coming in that have lots of money in their pocket. Always wanted to have a restaurant, but they don't cook. They see you as a potential to be their chef. They'll come to you and say, I'm going to open a restaurant. Would you be my chef? And that's your opportunity to negotiate for a piece of your first restaurant? Well, that happened at Arma. Three people came in and he was telling me what was going on and I was giving him supervisor. His he calls me up and he said, Mr. Grossman, you won't believe what just happened today. That's what happened. He said, you know, I wasn't very good in math and in high school. And I signed the contract for three million dollars for my first restaurant. I said, what? I said, how many investors? Yeah, he said one. And he so loves me and loves the food. He gave me sixty percent of the business. I said, I'm sure that that never happens. I said, you are really lucky. So he gave thirty percent to a front of the house person. He has thirty percent and is under house and it's called Broadway by Amar Santana and it's in Laguna Beach and it's a big, big success. He's looking for a second restaurant and then summer, just to give you a different slant, a student who I met in D.C. and Anacostia High School, that's the worst of the worst areas in the country. I saw him. He was he had good, good hands, potential. He had dreadlocks down to his shoulders. He was hunched over. He was a little heavy. And in our interview, I said, what do you want to do in life, Carlton? He said, I either want to be a doctor or a chef, said, what's your SAT score? And he told me, I said, be a chef. And we sent him to the CIA. And while he was there, I got him an internship at the Four Seasons Hotel in D.C., they loved him when he was about to graduate. So I contacted the forces and they said we'd love that. A management training student, I told that to Carlton and Carlton said, I think I'd like to have more experience with some of the top restaurants before I do that. And I know that's good. No, nothing wrong with that. So I worked at Persay Thomas Keller, but not in the kitchen, in the front of the house. And he was an expediter in the dining room. And then all of a sudden he was leaving after about a year, maybe a little longer. And I said, why are you leaving? He said, well, the maitre d or the the food and beverage director of the restaurant was hired away to go down to Washington, D.C., to the Mandarin Oriental, which was opening a new hotel there. And he wants me to come down and help manage one of the restaurants. I said, oh, that sounds great. And while he was down there, the Mandarin started sending him to wine classes. He had he'd been introduced to wines at the CIA because they have a very tough course and he got good grades in it and he didn't externship at the Bamuthi winery in Italy. And so after about three or four years in Washington, he was rising up in his wine levels and he gets a job at the little mill in Aspen, Colorado. And I said, wow, Carol, your life is going to change. Have you seen much snow except for up at school? He said, no, Mr. President, I haven't said you're going to see a lot of snow to ski. No, you're going to ski. So I goes out there and sure enough, he blossoms in this surrounding and two years ago, he called me in the summer and he said, Mr. Grassa, I took my test for a master sommelier and I missed it on the service, which is the easiest part of it. And so I've got to take it next year. I said, well, you'll get it next year. And sure enough, this summer he passed his masters. Tell me which if you don't know it, there are only about one hundred and thirty five in the United States. Two hundred and some odd in the world. And if you want to know what it takes to become that, you watch the documentary. So and it's extraordinary that my when I saw that film, my admiration for what Carlton has achieved is just sky high and and now a new world is open to him. So those are those are my two great big success.

Speaker 2 So tell me let's let's get to James Beard. How did you first hear of him and learn about James Beard?

Speaker 1 Well, I probably heard about James Beard during growing up because Jim had written books, and I think my mother might have had one of his books in her kitchen library. Most of the food that we grew up came out of the settlement cookbook. And it was good food, rather simple. I remember my going out to dinner with the family and asking my mother, what is Duck and I? She said, Well, your father didn't like Duck. It's too fatty. So I never eat duck until much later. But after college, I lived with two young men and in New York and I also had a piece of a farm that my brother and three other one or two other artists and I bought in the Catskills. We used it in the summer and weekends and I found that they were busy on their work and I was getting hungry and I started cooking. I started barbecuing and I became well known in the area from my which I built Big Stone Barbecue. I got greats from the from the highway department to use on the built big wood fires that would get the coals and my chicken and my ribs where people came from the neighborhood. And that was the extent of my level of cooking until one day I was working in the import business and the man who I worked for was an avid gourmet. And we had traveled together to Japan and China and Taiwan, India. And it was in that trip that was about nineteen sixty two on that trip, that my palate was exposed to all these flavors from around the world. And I liked him, and so I started to investigate. So one day Charlie Merrills, who was my boss, came to me and said, Rick, that was my nickname in those days. I wonder if you'll do me a favor and take a couple of cooking courses that I've signed up for. I'm going to miss them because I had to take a quick trip to Japan and I started cooking classes as that's for women, Charlie. And he said, but I've already paid for them. So my Jewish guilt clicked in. If it's paid for, I can wasted. So I said, OK, I'll take them. And little did I know that the classes were being written by James Beard. And I arrived in this house and I think there are about eight of us. We sat around and he started to talk about little doubt about his philosophy and what we were going to do that night in class. And as soon as I got into the kitchen with him, I was hooked. I mean, my my interest in cooking just soared. And and what happened was that Jim was an amazing personal teacher. I saw him on TV either at that time or later, but I didn't actually I was bored with with the classes. And part of it was he was slow, something like me, because I've seen myself on TV too. And but in the classroom, he was able to give someone the confidence and encouragement to do things they had never done, which gave that person the feeling that they had achieved so much. And I think that was a gift that he had. I mean, his writing was was fabulous and he was able to do to get people to cook. And his recipes were easy. They weren't complicated. They had all different ideas that were in them. So if you liked his recipes and cooked, you learned a lot just from from doing that. And so Charlie came back from Japan and said, you don't have to finish the classes. Oh, no, I'm going to finish them. But there's a room for you to come in. So I took I think it's only eight classes and during those classes. You can give me back his assistance during those classes. Clay is his assistant would come up to me a different time. Mr. Beard, torture. Your souffle was fabulous. And Mr. Beard thought your kid beef kidneys were just the best he had ever had. And I said, I don't even eat beef kidneys, but I had to apparently cook them the way he wanted them. They were rare and bloody and browned on the outside. So that sort of confidence. And then he himself would come and say, you know, he would show you how to fold egg whites into your souffle, using your hand to get the feel of what was going on. And when I was making an omelet or crêpes, he would come over and say wonderful, nice and thin and so forth. So that complimenting really went a long way to give me the confidence to to go further. So I my my hobby became a serious hobby for. I guess about four years before there was a change in our business and time for me to travel and think about my life, and it was during that trip that I said, you know what? What I love is cooking and skiing, but I really loved cooking and maybe I can make it into a career. I have to go find out whether I can cook now. And that's when I went to the Cordon Bleu and things changed.

Speaker 2 It was great. What was the what were the structure of the classes? As you remember,

Speaker 1 they were just like, you know, you'd go in two or three of you would cook one dish or people know I'd say eight. So you had a first course, main course dessert and you'd cook it and you'd be called over to look at this and called over to look at that. And then afterwards you sit down and eat and ask questions. And Jim would sit on a stool sometime and and tell stories about his childhood years where he learned this or what he felt about this. And it was he was so gentle and so, so calm that. I think I learned a lot of that from him because as I started to teach, people used to say I took the fear out of cooking French food. I made it look so easy. And that was a that was a gift that I had, which some of the ideas came from Jim, because in the days when I started teaching. They are the professionals that were teaching, which were chefs and women would go to classes and they say, gee, look, this time I could never do that and they'd applaud and leave the classroom and say, wow, that's that was wonderful. But they wouldn't cook. They would come to my classes and they'd say, gee, that looks easy, taste it. Oh, I'm going home to cook that. So I was able to get my audience out of their seats and into their kitchen. Then, of course, the next day they'd come back and I'd say, anybody have problems? Well, mine didn't look as good as yours. I said, well, how'd you guess? Like, Oh, they loved it. I said, well, that's success. I said, in time it'll you'll be able to get it to look like one. So I was able to teach audiences at all levels and I learned that from my training at the Cordon Bleu because you'd see, you know, a two year period. I might see thirty five ducks cooked, maybe five of them kanala lunch. And every time I saw that demonstration, I would see something new and I realized that. You see a demonstration at your present level, so I would go home and cook the duck and I run into problems on the peeling of the orange or the sectioning of the orange. So the next time I watch it, I focus on that, solve that problem. But I had a new problem with the sauce so you can get through a recipe, but you become better at it and refine it with practice and observation.

Speaker 2 So tell us how James Beard influenced your career change. Did he sit you down and.

Speaker 1 No, no. I actually after those classes, I didn't see him much until I was teaching for the Cordon Bleu. And when I saw him and we met and I thanked him for his inspiration in getting me to where I am, he said, Richard, I'm so proud of you and you're doing a wonderful job. And so there was encouragement in what I was doing, but there was no really help or inspiration to change the career that that came from my own right thinking about it. But I but if I hadn't gone into accidentally into its classes, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today, that's for sure.

Speaker 2 So how would you describe him as a person?

Speaker 1 To me, it was a gentle giant, very knowledgeable, full of stories, full of of interesting observations which just sparked your imagination, his encouragement was in the classroom, you know, in his kitchen, and that that was a gift.

Speaker 2 What do you think was his greatest contribution to the food scene today?

Speaker 1 I think his. I think it's a whole number of books, his career as a writer, his legacy is what he's left, of course, the James Beard Foundation, which he probably would have never have liked when he was living because he didn't like to have attention or praise put on. He was the modest person, but they have made a legacy from his name and made him famous in today's food world. So he he's looked up to like Julius looked up to as as pioneers in expanding the American power, expanding the knowledge of food. So I think that's where I see his importance.

Speaker 2 Why do you think a documentary about his life is important?

Speaker 1 Oh, I think, you know, everybody's life to me is interesting. I meet people on a plane, I meet chefs, I ask them their story, and I always find it fascinating. Now, here's a gentleman who who has done so much in his life, I think finding out how he accomplished it, who he touched, the people's lives that have been affected by. I think that's fascinating.

Speaker 2 What are some of your fondest memories of him that you think about today?

Speaker 1 I think it was in those first couple of classes that I was in that he made me feel so comfortable and gave me the encouragement that sticks with me today and also the feeling that I had in leaving that first class, the feeling of I was like floating. I was so happy and learned. So I want to get back in my kitchen and cook. And that same experience hit me when I was in Paris and I went to the Cordon Bleu for the first day. And all the information that I learned from that first class, I left that school sort of floating and knew that I wanted to go to the school. So that was there was a it's a true gift. When you affect a person's life like that.

Speaker 2 What do you think are some of the misconceptions about James Beard that people might have today?

Speaker 1 I don't know. I've I've heard only good things. And perhaps that he was a bigger had more effect on. Food at the time than he did, I mean, there weren't that many people interested. I mean, today everybody is interested in food. So if he were living today, he would have a much broader effect. But equally, he was a giant.

Speaker 2 I mean, why don't we talk about the documentary? But why do you think it's important for culinary students to know about his life? I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Speaker 1 I think it's important for culinary students to know about a lot of things that have come before. Jim is one of those giants in the field that should be studied should his life should be known just like Escoffier, like like like people who who throughout the ages have had an effect on cuisine and so that they know what's come before. It's too easy to when you don't know anything and that the things that you learn in school are the truths, the things that you learn in school are the only way that you do something. And in life there are many ways to do the same thing. When I went to the Cordon Bleu, I learned from one chef and then I go out and eat and I see things done differently. And I go to the chef and I say, you know, you cooked Puleo Estragon and it was with a white sauce. And and I went to a restaurant and I ordered it and it was came with a brown sauce. I said, is that right? And he said, Oh, yes, there are many ways to do puleo. If you approach it, it's done with a white sauce. If you roasted or you saute it, it's done with a brown sauce. So that was the learning, you know, but I left his class saying, Puleo, Estragon is done this way. And that's what students have to learn. I remember Jacques Pepin at that breakfast first awards breakfast saying when you go to work, forget what you've learned in school and asked your chef to show you what he wants. So if you're if he asks you to dice a carrot, don't go dissaving the way your teacher torture as your chef, how he wants and taste. And when you get to the next restaurant, do the same thing and you'll find that each chef does it a little differently. And by the time you're ready to open up your own restaurant, you'll be able to do it your way. And the right way is the way the chef is doing it. So the right way is the way your chef does it all along. And when you become a chef, that will be the right way for years. So that's, you know, tell us tell us lot. Did you just say one thing for me? I know you did say this

Speaker 2 already, but I just want to be sure, get it clean. Would you say that you would

Speaker 1 not be who you are today without James Beard? Yeah, if you could just have me, Kathleen, you know, forget what in spite of all I know is that if it wasn't for my glasses with Jim and Jim encouragement, I wouldn't be here today.

Richard Grausman
Interview Date:
2014-03-31
Runtime:
1:02:07
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
N/A
MLA CITATIONS:
"Richard Grausman, James Beard: America's First Foodie." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 31 Mar. 2014, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1274
APA CITATIONS:
(2014, March 31). Richard Grausman, James Beard: America's First Foodie. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1274
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Richard Grausman, James Beard: America's First Foodie." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 31, 2014. Accessed June 26, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1274

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