Monday, 13 August 2012

Celebrating Julia Child's 100th Birthday with Sur La Table

This wednesday Julia Child would have been 100 years old and to celebrate, Sur La Table, are holding numerous cooking classes inspired by the national treasure.  They kick started this homage to America's favourite tv chef, last night, with "An Edible and Musical Birthday Celebration".  The night comprised of a fusion of food and opera, which is what enticed me in the first place.  This untraditional cooking class was combining two of my vices, good food and performance.

Upon arrival you were greeted with an array of cheeses and italian breads, along with either lemon infused ice water or espresso/cappuccino from one of Sur La Table's Nespresso machines.  Usually their cooking classes require you to get involved with the cooking too but due to the nature of the performance, an audience area was set up instead, with volunteers brought up on occasion.

Once we were seated the performance began from the fresh performance group, Vital Opera, in which one of the groups singers performed "La Bonne Cuisine".  An entertaining comedic piece which prepared the audience for the rest of the amusement they could expect to be an integral part of.  Resident chef Joel Gamoran then took to the stage to begin his demonstration of some of Julia's much loved recipes. His amusing anecdotes from culinary school set the kitchen alight with laughter, just as the previous performance had done.  The natural banter made for a lighthearted and fun atmosphere and ensured strangers felt at ease to chat freely with one another in the interim.

Highlights of his cooking demonstration included his audience-volunteer-hollandaise-sauce-competition and his salt water Russian Roulette test, which I fell victim to.  Joel wanted to demonstrate how the perfect french mash potatoes should be made, which apparently includes them being boiled in very salty cold water.  So salty it reminisces sea water.  Three guests were asked to volunteer, in which I was one.  A small glass of water were handed to each of us and Joel explained that the person that got the salty water will pull such a disgusted face that the rest of the group will always have that image ingrained on their brain and appreciate how much salt they should be using.  Apparently my face was the perfect demonstration.  I was rewarded for my good humour though with an autographed cook book from Eataly owner Mario Batali, which won't go to waste in my next eight months in NYC and beyond.

After being served our meal of chicken with mushrooms and brandy, french mashed potatoes and asparagus with hollandaise sauce, the final performance began.  Vital Opera created a rendition of one of Julia Child's episodes of her television show, with Ellen Graham as Julia.  Adorned in a Julia-esque outfit, wig and all, she sang her chocolate cake recipe, whilst baking and intermittently spoke with that distinctive Julia voice, when you were least expecting it.

But no birthday party would be complete without a verse of Happy Birthday of course, which rounded off our two hour class nicely, especially when we were given some of Julia's birthday chocolate cake to taste too.

This class was just $40, considerably more affordable than the rest of their classes, although none too expensive with the average price being about $69.  The cost was more than worth it for the fabulous two hours spent at Sur La Table though, that went by far too quickly in my eyes.  The class with a difference provided such fun entertainment, consistent laughter and genuine passion for food, performance and of course the beloved Julia that I definitely plan on trying to attend one of their other classes in the future, even though it will be lacking this unique take on cooking demonstration.

Classes honouring Julia Child at Sur La Table are running for the next week, a full calendar of upcoming classes can be found here.

*Image courtesy of

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