At the age of 34 years old I was promoted within the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel to the Ritz-Carlton Boston. It was one of those moves I never really anticipated; from sunny California with nouvelle cuisine to chicken pot pie and Dover sole Meuniere table side.
I met Julia for the first time three weeks after my arrival in the Bean city. Julia had complained to some of her entourage that the Ritz was not the Ritz anymore. So here I was on a mission to meet her and tell her that I was a young brave chef full of vigor. We met at the Café at the Ritz; she was having a lobster salad and a glass of la Doucette. Right away she spoke to me in French; her accent was heavy [probably like mine in English]. Once she found out I was from Nice, she told me about her house in Vallauris that she had with Paul. She talked about the local market; the fruits, the vegetables, and the flavors of Provence. The long time we the French spend at the table with a never ending “joie de vivre,” the Moulin de Mougins and Roger Verge with his fabulous menu.
After a long conversation about cuisine from Nice I decided to invite her to dinner at my house in Chelsea. She accepted.
I never will forget my girlfriend Caroline’s reaction: “Are you crazy? You invited Julia Child to the house! What are we cooking? Caroline is a chef as well graduated from the CIA. What do I wear?”
And the best “I need to call my mother and grandmother right now.”
The day of the dinner Julia came right in time, was introduced to Caroline and went right to the fridge to get a glass of Chardonnay
We sat and talked. We cooked some Pissaladiere (Onion pizza from Nice), and some gnocchi (that I almost did not want to serve because the potatoes were not old enough and did not look right to me), a good veal stew and a Clafouti.
I asked her if she liked John Belushi on Saturday Night Live, she laughed about it!
When I saw the Movie Julie and Julia I was hoping that Julia would show up for dinner.
That day changed a lot for me – Julia brought a lot of fun to my life! Like her line: “Hey, if you drop the chicken on the floor just pick it up! LOL”
Through the years Julia and I stayed in touch. When I moved to Colorado she said she would come and visit. But that never happened. After many years at the Ritz-Carlton I did open my restaurant in the mountains with Caroline; we called it Caroline’s Cuisine. For 20 years we had a poster of Julia in the main dining room. She was overlooking our restaurant all the time.
When Julia died on Friday, August 13, 2004, I was in the kitchen in full order fire mode! I stopped cooking and came out of the kitchen with Caroline, with a glass of Chardonnay in my hand! The restaurant was full but I asked the attention of all the people and made a toast to Julia.