The Best Advice I Got From Julia Child

Julia walked into the middle of chaos and said something that has stuck with me almost 25 years later.

Julia Child James SchendPhoto: James Schend

By the time I met Julia Child, I was covered in egg yolks, arguing with three other cooks and ready to throw a pot across the room. Not my finest hour, but it’s one I’ll remember for as long as I live.

Anyone who loves cooking knows and adores Julia Child. We’re all familiar with her infamous quotes and her timeless cooking tips, and the fact that people are still using her first cookbook, published over 50 years ago, is a testament to how special she was. But I’ll remember her for a different reason.

How I Met Julia

In 1995, I was selected as one of the 10 Best Student Chefs by Food & Wine magazine and was invited to attend their festival in Aspen, Colorado. The 10 of us helped prepare the recipes the master chefs were going to demonstrate and we even got to assist them on stage. Julia was going to be demonstrating the classic Nicoise Salad, which hard-boiled eggs are one of the main ingredients. Hours before her demonstration we started to prepare all her ingredients. Oddly enough, not a single one of us remembered we were almost a mile and a half above sea level, and water boils at around 190° instead of 212°. So our 12-minute eggs were practically raw. In fact, nothing was cooking like it should. So we did what came natural to us: We panicked. Of course, Julia picked that particular moment to appear.

You could have heard a pin drop. We stared in awe as she walked around the room taking it all in. Within 20 seconds she had figured out the situation. She smiled, sat down and said, “Alright, the first thing you need to do is relax because you won’t find a solution if you don’t.” She was right. We were so frantic and stressing out that we couldn’t focus on what was really happening or how to fix it. As if to prove her point, a few seconds later she asked for a pressure cooker and she showed us how to cook eggs in just a few minutes. Then she reminded us we were high in the Rocky Mountains and gave us a few pointers on cooking and baking above sea level.

Her Words Stuck With Me

The rest of the weekend I learned so much from her but that one simple suggestion really stuck with me over the years. Now, whenever things get a little frantic, I take her advice and relax a bit and in almost every case, a solution presents itself. It is such a simple trick but one that’s hard to master. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and sometimes miss the most obvious solutions. So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, do what I do; stop, take a breath and think of Julia.

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James Schend
As Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversees the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and manages all food content for Trusted Media Brands. Prior to this position, James worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, he has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.