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James Beard as a Gastronomic Gigolo


Initially interested in acting, James Beard began cooking and entertaining when his savings ran low. Soon, he found himself invited to events and parties across the city. After he began his first catering company, he found that his cooking was beginning to open doors for him.

Major funding for James Beard: America’s First Foodie is provided by Feast it Forward. Additional funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and Art Works.


Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Vital Projects Fund, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation and public television viewers.


While I held out for the perfect job, my savings were running low. I found that friends liked my cooking, so I began the rounds of cooking for my supper. And in return for my services, I was invited with great regularity to parties, the theater, and the opera. You might say that I was a gastronomic gigolo. The time is just after prohibition. It's New York City. There were about 250 cocktail parties a night, and James was attending a lot of them. He loved the booze, he loved the socializing, but he didn't love the food that was served at those parties. The hors d'oeuvres he calls 'doots and doodads.' So he decides to develop his own catering company called Hors D'Oeuvres Inc., and he developed a sandwich that he became quite famous for - the James Beard onion sandwich. I read about the sandwich and I started making it when I had a catering company. It sounded delicious to me because it's his mother's homemade mayonnaise recipe. She used to make it in her boarding house, and she would actually make it table side. You take homemade brioche, slice some onion, James's mother's mayonnaise, a little bit of crunchy salt, add a little parsley. This is such a perfect example of James Beard's taste - simple, classic, very elegant: awesome.


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