Manchester chef marks a special friendship with Julia Child
Cotton is the only one in New Hampshire to participate in JC100, a 100-restaurant nationwide event to commemorate what would have been Child's 100th birthday Aug. 15.
“It was a dream come true to meet her,” said Jeffrey Paige, owner and chief chef at Cotton. “She taught America how to cook.”
Paige said he first met Child in 1990. A friend, Ken Ryan, ran an organic farm in Litchfield. Ryan was hosting a birthday luncheon for Child, and he had Paige cook the luncheon in a farm-to-table meal that was served on a picnic table right on the farm.
Only Ryan, Paige, Child and two food critics attended.
The next time they met, it was a more Child-like setting. She visited Canterbury, where Paige ran the food service for Canterbury Shaker Village.
It was 1994. Child came with a Good Morning America crew in tow, and a segment focused on Shaker cuisine and allowed Paige to plug his second cookbook, “The Shaker Kitchen.”
Paige last saw Child in Boston in 2000. He was getting Cotton off the ground; she was moving from Cambridge, Mass., to California.
“We kept up our friendship over the years through dinners in Boston and letters when she resided on the West Coast to avoid New England winters,” Paige said.
Paige's JC100 offerings, served Friday through next Wednesday, will reflect the nature of their relationship.
There will be the French cuisine that Child popularized — boeuf Bourguignon, vichyssoise, crème brulee and profiteroles with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and toasted almonds.
But Child was intrigued by Paige and his knowledge of Shaker cuisine, which concentrates on garden freshness and farm products. So he will also offer mesclun salad with onion-maple vinaigrette, local heirloom tomato salad with sweet onions, and Shaker pork roast with firecracker applesauce.
Paige said he still remembers the best advice she ever heard from Child: “This needs more salt.”
“That's what she used to say,” he said. “I realized from her that chefs use salt to bring out flavor, a little bit of pop.”
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Mark Hayward may be reached at email@example.com.
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