The kitchen at 808 Comm. Ave. last night was pretty lively. Local chefs who knew Julia Child cooked with the culinary students to make a grand menu of her favorite dishes to celebrate her 100th birthday. Julia was the one who encouraged her friend Jacques Pepin to join her in urging Boston University to start a culinary arts program and a masters in gastronomy.
The meal began with Arctic char by BU culinary teacher Jean-Jacques Paimblanc, monkfish by Legal Sea Food chef Richard Vellante, and foie gras by Stan Frankenthaler of Dunkin' Brands. (Stan brought Munchkins and muffins for the kitchen staff; the Munchkins sat almost untouched; the muffin tops were cut off and eaten and only the bottoms sat in the box.)
Above are Jacky Robert of the Petit Robert group of restaurants (he cooked for Julia when he worked with Ann and Lucien Robert of Maison Robert). Gordon Hamersley of Hamersley's Bistro, a favorite restaurant of Julia's, is beside his former sous chef, now Rialto chef-owner Jody Adams. Susie Regis of Upstairs on the Square is the caboose. Her pithiviers (very flaky puff pastry) of Roquefort with striped beets and candied nuts is below.
Gordon made his famous roast chicken, which he said was the first time he prepared it outside his restaurant. I tasted it in the kitchen and it was truly to die for! Jody made rabbit ravioli, which had just a little heat and heavenly pasta. Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger (below) made duck cassoulet (also below).
Ihsan Gurdal of Formaggio Kitchen, who teaches a popular cheese class at BU, brought fine cheeses and unusual preserves to eat them with.
New Hampshire native Jim Dodge (below) of Bon Appetit Management Co., flew in from San Francisco. He and the students made a luscious dacquoise layered with coffee-flavored buttercream (also below). I was pleased to see a couple of my food writing students (I teach at BU in the Spring semesters) in the culinary program working with Jim.
Later, he told the guests that when Julia left Cambridge to live in Santa Barbara, he used to make mini dacquoise for her to keep in her freezer. (He also took her to Costco for hot dogs, a favorite excursion for her.)
Jacky Robert made the other dessert, individual tart Tatins. He brought old-fashioned salamanders, which someone made for him. They consist of thick iron disks on a handle. He let the disks heat on burners for half an hour. Then he set baked apples on rounds of crisp pastry, dredged them with sugar, and pressed the hot iron onto the sugar to sizzle madly into caramel (below). We were spellbound.
He served the desserts with whipped cream and handmade caramel roses (below).
Guests paid $300 ($50 of that went to the Julia Child Foundation). If you had asked me yesterday if any meal is worth that much money, I would have said no. Today, I say yes. These chefs knocked themselves out and after many many hours in the kitchen, the students were all smiles.
Another JC dinner will be held on Nov 7.
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