To Julia on Her 80th Birthday: Remembering a Culinary Icon in South Florida

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The French chef has her own South Florida story.  Growing up I even had the honor to live part of it, attending the tributes that our local chapter of the American Institute of Wine and Food would throw her, since my mother was the co-founder.

So buckle up and come along for the ride this week as we recount this legacy in the pictures and reflections of culinary professionals who knew and loved her.  The occasion is of course the premiere of Writer/Director Nora Ephron's feature film adaptation of two memoirs: "My Life in France," which Child wrote with grandnephew Alex Prud'homme, and "Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously," by blogger Julie Powell.

Up first, we see Julia through the lens of our AIWF South Florida Chapter co-founders who also happen to be members of Les Dames de Escoffier, a French international society of accomplished women in the culinary professions.

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Marsha Talianoff
A party for Julia's 80th birthday in 1992 hosted by AIWF at the Kampong. That's 11 year-old me with mom, Marsha Talianoff.
Carole Kotkin, Dame de Escoffier, Co-Founder South Florida Chapter of American Institute of Wine and Food, Co-Host Food and Wine Talk, Food Editor The Wine News, Syndicated Food Columnist Miami Herald
I have many more tales, but this came to mind first.

I was a devotee of Julia and was lucky enough to spend time with her both in Miami and Cambridge. I picked her up airport around 8:30 p.m. on one of her visits to Miami. I planned to take her to her hotel  (after all it was late, and she was in her 80's), but, she said, "Can we go to Joe's Stone Crab?"

So we did. When she walked in the crowded waiting area, everyone applauded.  Before we ate, she visited the kitchen and spoke to the entire cooking staff.  She was really fun to eat with because she ate with gusto and relish. She said she had never tasted Key Lime Pie before, so we shared a piece. I kept pinching myself because I couldn't believe I was actually sharing a dessert with Julia. When I asked her how she had so much energy, she said, "Red meat and gin!"

It was on that visit that she asked me to start a South Florida Chapter. No one says no to Julia.  I remembered that your mother had spoken to me about doing just that a few years earlier. I called Mom and we began.  We celebrated both Julia's 80th and 85th birthdays with AIWF events.
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Jackie Sayet
Mom's signed cookbooks, my signed menu
Marsha Talianoff, Dame de Escoffier, Co-Founder South Florida Chapter of American Institute of Wine and Food
The first time I met Julia was at an AIWF event, I think even before we started the chapter.  She was sitting at a table and I went over to introduce myself.  She was so gracious, really welcoming people to come over to her. She never made you feel like she had a barrier or wall around her.  And Julia was always ready to have a good time.  She was fun.  I don't think she took herself too seriously.

From Julia's influence, I aspired to master French cooking techniques and used her cookbooks all the time when I was starting out with my catering business.  She made cooking something not just for professional chefs.  She brought it down to a level that the average person could handle.   She made us all feel as though we could cook anything.  At the time, it felt very romantic to an American homemaker.... Through Julia, one could travel to France and learn about that culture through food.

You have these very traditional recipes, which provide the grounding and the structure, so you can take off creatively from there and make anything.   It's like a singer learning classical music first, as a foundation from which to improvise.

Every time I would meet her I would wonder, does she really know who I am?  I mean, how in the world would Julia Child know who I was! 
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Marsha Talianoff
Clockwise from top left: Marsha Talianoff, Carole Kotkin, Julia Child and Norman Van Aken
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Marsha Talianoff
Julia gets a kick out of a clown fish on a stone crabbing expedition with Chef Allen Susser. More from him and Norman later.

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