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Chefs dish out review of new Julia Child flick


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POSTED: Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Two luminary Hawaii culinarians gave the movie “;Julie & Julia”; good reviews following a special screening Monday night.

Lacking film critic credentials, your columnist will spare you any two forks-up riffs on Siskel & Ebert.

Joined by the national winners of the American Culinary Federation's student competition — from Kapiolani Community College — foodies and the occasional newspaper columnist viewed the movie, intertwining the stories of Julia Child and Julie Powell — who cooks 524 of Child's recipes in 365 days and blogs about the experience.

Disclaimer: There are no spoilers for movie-goers in this column, as it won't be released until Aug. 7.

The host for the evening was chef and restaurateur George Mavrothalassitis. He told the audience he had met Child and famous French chef and prolific cookbook author Jacques Pepin at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic.

At the time, about 1995, Mavrothalassitis was executive chef of Halekulani and chef at La Mer and was in the Hawaii Visitors Bureau's booth when Pepin happened by.

“;He was very very nice,”; and despite his fame, “;he was very humble and very quiet,”; Mavrothalassitis said.

He met Child later that day and, making large sweeping motions with his arms, he said she was larger than life, the exact opposite of Pepin.

In a lounge seated amongst “;a bunch of men from the industry, she was totally bigger than life,”; Mavrothalassitis told TheBuzz.

“;To me, Julia, she is the female version of James Beard,”; who was also totally passionate about food and became a big name in the culinary industry.

He had been expecting “;a cooking movie,”; along the lines of “;Eat, Drink, Man, Woman,”; or “;Like Water for Chocolate,”; and while he thoroughly enjoyed the film, “;we cannot put this in the cooking-movie category,”; he said.

Mavrothalassitis took a few moments before the film started rolling to introduce members of the Kapiolani Community College team that won the American Culinary Federation's national student competition earlier this month in Orlando, Fla.

Chef Alan Wong, in the audience, also had met Child at a culinary event.

A graduate of the KCC culinary program and the Greenbrier Culinary Apprenticeship Program, Wong was asked back to the resort for a turn as guest chef. Child also was at Greenbrier, as guest chef for the La Varenne cooking- school program.

“;We had a couple moments with her,”; and he reflected on them during the movie, which was “;fun, had some hilarious moments and was wonderfully done,”; he said.

One reason he enjoyed it was something “;I've been trying to teach my cooks at the restaurant. Go backward and learn more about classical cooking,”; he said.

“;When you learn the base foundation, you cook with two feet on the ground, and when you get creative, your food still makes sense.”;

“;There was a time we were all cooking that way,”; Wong said, recalling his days at the legendary Lutece, a now-closed classic French restaurant in Manhattan.

“;Trying to dazzle somebody by making (a dish) with 10 components and it's piled 10 inches off the plate, you really kind of miss the point,”; Wong said.

In the movie, the sole a la meuniere presented tableside, plated and deboned by the maitre d' made him hungry and reminiscent.

“;I had to do that one,”; at the Greenbrier fish station. “;And we did the same thing, service in a copper pan,”; he said.

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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).