As part of my eminent person study, I needed to obtain an interview from someone who could relate to Julia Child. I set out in search of someone who would have answers to my questions and who would give me a sense of what it was like to be in her shoes. My solution was Mr.Abbinante, the Culinary Arts Instructor of Gleneagle Secondary. On the day before Night of the Notables, I booked an interview with Mr.Abbinante, then during fourth block, we sat down in the school kitchen and I begun by asking my first question: How did he think Julia Child influenced cooking?
“Well Julia Child actually had a huge role on society,” he says, “She was—let’s call it, in a women’s part of the chef or culinary arts—a real pioneer. She was well traveled; she spent quite a bit of time in France and Paris, so she knew all the chefs and she was very highly respected…”
What he was saying had, indeed, come up in my research, so I happily listened as he continued.
“In the olden days, it was mostly men predominantly as chefs. But she was really well respected by chefs [such as] Jacque Papan, and a couple other chefs. She had her own program for many years and was very well versed in the world of cooking.”
I then asked him what he thought the first impressions of the people watching her on television of America would be.
“I think it was an instant love affair with her because the first thing was she was so passionate about cooking. She was passionate, she was a humble person, she was always willing to learn and take on more things…” he said.
All these qualities that Mr.Abbinante described truly helped me to understand what part of Julia Child her audience must have been drawn to.
As our conversation went on, I began to get into personal questions that may have been relatable to Julia Child herself since both she and Mr.Abbinante had shared the same career. I asked him about what had inspired him when he first started cooking.
“Well I came from a European background,” Mr.Abbinante said, “and so it really was the network of my family. My father was a very talented non-schooled chef, so waking up as an Italian young boy and smelling the fresh sauces and all the homemade baked breads that my mom and dad would bake really got me into cooking. And then just working in hotels when I was fifteen and catering got me into the world of cooking.”
I asked him my next question, which was, what was his favourite part about teaching Culinary Arts?
“I consider myself very fortunate in what my mentors and great chefs taught me. So it allows me to give back into the teaching aspect and to teach and shape young minds of the future, like I was taught…it’s a great thing to see these kids, mold them into the kitchen, see where they start, and then see where they finish. It’s very rewarding.”
I began to wonder if that may have been the point of view of Julia Child as well. Following that question, I asked him to think about what he thought his students’ favourite part about learning was.
“I think what really excites our students is when they’re hands on. When they can start a product [from scratch] and finish with a great result, and then of course they get to taste it. It really gives them a sense of purpose, a sense of pride, and it teaches them, ‘geez, I learned something new here and I’m really enjoying it.’ “
This was exactly what I had hoped to hear, since it connected to the reason why Julia Child’s audience had been so inspired by her performance and her idea of enjoying working and learning.
I had heard that Julia Child had started cooking classes at the age of thirty-six, so she had been called a ‘late bloomer.’ My last question was about what Mr.Abbinante’s advice would be for people who still want to chase their dreams.
“I just entered the world of teaching here at forty, so you’re never too old to do anything. I’m doing University courses, I’m doing all these things… you’re always learning in life and it doesn’t matter what age you are. That’s a great thing about life; we’re always learning. So it’s very exciting [to be able] to challenge our new horizons. “
What a nice way to draw the interview to an end. I thanked Mr.Abbinante for his great advice and opinions, and got up to leave with my new found knowledge still buzzing around my head.
I think this interview really helped me get the feeling of what it must’ve felt like to be a chef, and specifically, Julia Child. I was able to ask all the questions I had for the interview, and was fortunate enough to have someone as knowledgeable as Mr.Abbinane answer those questions. I feel that this experience was a useful and successful one, and feel like it was very helpful towards my eminent person study.