I showed Dorie my sheet of questions where I had listed "What is it like to work with Julia Child, Pierre Herme, Daniel Boulud?" Dorie looked at it, hugged her arms and shook her head saying, "It's hard to believe I worked with these three greats. It's hard to believe I worked with one of them, but three!"
Dorie spoke about Julia, Pierre and Daniel being natural teachers and mused if perhaps that wasn't a trait of all the greatest chefs? Not just a necessity of or part of the job of teaching your sous chef and so on down the brigade, but a higher sense of duty, like the doctors Hippocratic oath, compelling them to teach the next generation to preserve this tradition, this history in order to keep the cuisine alive. "Il faut transmettre le savoir faire" as they say, translating literally as "one must transmit the know-how" or carry on the traditions.
What was it like cooking with Julia Child?
I barely had the question out of my mouth when Dorie replied "extraordinary". "All the cliches are true, she was extraordinary. Her warmth, generosity, incredible intelligence, her curiosity about the world - it was all extraordinary." Like everyone else who worked with Julia, Dorie discovered that the persona on television was exactly the same person live - full of "warmth, generosity, curiosity and humor. Julia loved learning. She was a born teacher and also a shameless flirt."
Before Julia moved to Santa Barbara, Dorie, Michael, and their tall, handsome son Joshua visited Julia in Cambridge. As they were headed out to lunch, Julia's assistant Stephanie Hersh suggested Dorie take Julia's walker warning Dorie that she wouldn't want to be responsible if Julia were to fall. Julia overheard this and replied, "When I'm with a young man, I don't need a walker!" With that she linked her arm around Joshua's and headed for the car.
Dorie lived in Cambridge for 8 weeks while working on the Baking with Julia cookbook to accompany the series. Geoff Drummond, Julia's producer, initially recommended her to Julia and Julia immediately concurred, stating, "I like the way Dorie writes recipes. She writes them just like I do." When Dorie spoke that last sentence, she put her hand over her heart, claiming "What an honor!"
At one point in the tv taping, Julia mentioned that something was wrong with her computer, so Michael and one of the show's tech guys went to look at it, which was upstairs in her room. Julia came in a few minutes later and, at 85 years old (!!), wanted to know exactly what was wrong and exactly how they had fixed it because if it happened again, she wanted to be able to fix it herself. Even at 85 years old, she was still inquisitive, curious and always learning. And as a testament to her whimsical sense of humor, her screen saver read: "Creme Fraiche".
I asked Dorie how she met Julia. Dorie gave a cooking demo at Boston University after the release of her first book, Sweet Times. Her demo followed Julia's demo - "not a place," according to Dorie, "that any new author wants to be." At a dinner that evening that included Jacques Pepin, Dorie sat next to Julia. Julia asked her if she'd seen Dan Ackroyd's Saturday Night Live skit impersonating her. Dorie replied that she was probably the only person in the country who hadn't seen it so Julia stood up and re-enacted the entire routine for her! With a melancholy smile, Dorie reminisced, "I miss her. I really, really miss her."
What is it like working with Pierre Herme?
"With Pierre there is an excitement to his teaching, to making others understand and see things that he sees, tastes, and feels in the cuisine. For Pierre, the word "genius" is so overused but Pierre is truly a genius - you see it in his ideas about perceptions of taste and texture and how he thinks about combinations. Pierre would always refer to the Three Ts - taste, texture, temperature. How he creates around these three is truly remarkable." I would like to humbly add a 4th - visual - because his creations are true works of art and one's mouth begins watering at the mere sight of them. Dorie claims to have graduated from the "School of Working with Pierre Herme" because he changed her whole way of looking at what makes food a pleasure.
Dorie and Pierre met in 1993 while she was working on a story about chestnuts for the New York Times. Dorie wanted to learn about marrons glace (candied chestnuts) so she arranged for a meeting with Pierre. She brought along her husband Michael thinking it would be a quick interview and that they would then go on their way. Two hours later, Pierre and Dorie decided they were separated at birth while Michael claimed they were "meant to meet." They had so much to talk about, the hours flew by. After that initial meeting, Dorie and Pierre stayed in touch and visited when Dorie was in Paris or Pierre was in New York. When Baking with Julia was finished and Dorie was looking for her next project, Michael suggested she talk to Pierre about collaborating on a book. She sent him a fax asking if he'd like to work on a book for the American market and he called her back in minutes saying, "I thought we'd already agreed to do this?!"
When it came time for Dorie and Pierre to start work on that book, Pierre invited her to join him and his wife Frederick on their upcoming vacation. Dorie declined, saying of course she wouldn't dream of interrupting their vacation. Pierre insisted she join them and said it would be the only time he had to work on the project. They drove to the west coast of France, to Arcachon south of Bordeaux, with crates of recipes in the trunk. They set up a very long table, literally on the beach with their toes in the sand, and hooked up a generator behind them to power their laptops. They sat in a row - Dorie, Pierre, Frederick, Michael - looking out on the Atlantic Ocean and the entire book was organized in those few weeks. Every morning they would go to the market then return for coffee. A few hours of work on the book would be followed with lunch. A return trip to the market for dinner would then be followed with Dorie and Pierre working by the light of one lamp until 1:00 am. The delicious results of that "vacation" are Desserts by Pierre Herme.