I have lovingly prepared innumerable meals as a private chef. But never has a meal been this important. Tonight was my audition for a new job. Being a former actress, “audition” was the only word that fit. I was a chef in search of the perfect client, like a single woman in search of a husband. It had to be the perfect marriage of respect, appreciation and love of wonderful food. But in this case a trendy haircut and sparkling conversation wasn’t going to cut the baguette. My resume read like a Who’s Who of New York City’s wealthy and unstable.
There was the society lady who, upon ringing a tiny bell, would send her army of servants scampering to attention like a pack of well trained Yorkies. There was the art dealer’s mistress who declared that she needed to lose 7 lbs for a gala she was attending the next evening. I assured her this was within the realm of possibility but secretly knew she’d have to chop off her arm to achieve it. She demanded I prepare recipes from the Great Cabbage Diet of 1972. Turns out that boiling cabbage in a large vat of water yields a type of muddy gruel I wouldn’t serve in a production of Oliver Twist.
Let me not forget the Ben Franklin experiment. While working for a family one summer I was instructed to grill some steaks outside. The meat had been marinating and was ready to cook when the weather changed. Within three minutes the sunny blue skies turned black and were streaked with jagged bolts of lightning and rain poured down. So I promptly heated up a grill on top of the stove. The lady of the manor sashayed into the kitchen and looked quizzically at me. I explained that it probably wasn’t a good idea to grill outside given the monsoon that was taking place outside. Without missing a beat she replied, “Well I was going to give you an umbrella.”
Of course my greatest culinary challenge was when I was hired for a dinner party by a gentleman who lived alone in the penthouse apartment of an old landmark building. I arrived with menu ideas in hand but was asked instead to doctor up some Waldbaums soup and cook a Turducken. I was certain this was some sort of pre-historic creature and wondered if the Museum of Natural History had a food market. It was then explained to me that a Turducken was actually a duck inside of a turkey inside of a rooster inside of….I lost track of this horror of modern science. I don’t believe Darwin included this in his theory of evolution. Little did I know that he wanted me to then serve this all in a French maid’s outfit.
But I focused on my audition and took a deep breath. As I stood outside the door of the Upper East Side brownstone, I sent up a silent prayer to Julia Child and rang the doorbell. Let the games begin….