Me & Julia Child
I sometimes say during my live presentations that I have lived a Forrest Gump-ish life. I think of that statement and laugh out loud, because it is so true, this guy Me, from Conyers Georgia has traveled the globe and met world-famous history-making human beings. Wow… don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, because you can get it.
I even have a funny meet and greet with a President in the White House. That as they say is another story, for some other day.
I sometimes look back in amazement at all the people, famous people, infamous people, incredible people that have crossed my path. Or should I say I crossed their paths! Truth is, our paths met at some point. That is one of the reasons I most times say to my live audiences “I am the most blessed person on Earth”
Julia Child, Paul Prudhomme the great chef I met them both on the same day back in the late 1980s.
I got my television start thanks to little sister Julie Davis Salisbury, we have different Mama’s and Daddy’s, however same, Father, God. Julie and I became family in Junior High, we are just as close nearly 50 years later.
Little Sister got me booked on Atlanta’s WXIA TV, Noon Day, hosted by Elise Wolfman, the executive producer was Jack Lease. For some reason, Jack saw something in me and help develop my television talent, personality and presentation. Jack gave me a weekly spot on Noon Day! I got to be on the show every Thursdays and he even paid me it was a dream coming true.
I looked forward to those Thursdays after each appearance Jack would have me up to his office and he would critique my performance tell me what I did wrong and right how to improve, I remember Jack’s saying to me Curtis you’re talking to people at home they are inviting you into their living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens, so talk to them. Look in the camera and give them your information, allow them to enjoy you, if your audience knows you, they will love you” it was fabulous. One day I must say after I had killed, meaning I did a super Job, I go up to Jack’s office. He grabs me gave a big hug then said “I got nothing more to teach you kid” go do TV young Man I love you, Jack!
Thursday that learning time, those days of growth I found my art as well as the artist in me. The people I met a Who’ s Who of American famous, Howard Rawlings, Carol Connor, Red Skelton singers Joan Baez, I got to meet and spend time with Rosa Parks!
This one Thursday, I had been traveling all week, so I say to myself let’s do an easy and simple recipe.
Fresh Pickled Melons
Featuring watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew! Yes, I’ll add the recipe at the end.
I get the WXIA, all set up ready to rock, when I find out Mrs. Julia Child is a guest on the show that day!
O my, all the dishes I know, I’m doing this easy thing, and Julia Child, I mean the original celebrity chef the one we all know and owe so much to… will see me do the simple recipe. She is in town promoting a book and her appearance, I remember thinking damn she has a presence, you cannot take your eyes off her. Then I get to do my segment, I said to Jill the new host I’m am nervous is like having the queen watch me do a presentation Jill just touch my hand and said Curtis you got this, the exact same thing Elise said the first time I appeared on Noon Day!
I must say I had it. I talked about buying watermelons, cantaloupe, and, honeydew how to store them how to use them then we prepared a wonderful recipe the simple easy recipe.
When I got to meet Julia I called her Mrs. Child she corrected me and said Julia’ please’, And each time I would say Mrs. Child she would quickly correct me and say Julia my name is Julia called me Julia please”. I remember thinking I want to show you all the respect in the World, it’s hard for Southern Gentlemen to call this great woman by her first name. However, that is what she preferred. From then on, I said Julia.
I had her taste my fresh pickle melons she raved over them said how wonderful it was how refreshing how great light and simple she loves the flavor combination.
I asked her assistant did Julia really like it? Or was just saying that. Her assistant looked at me and said if Julia didn’t like it she would tell you and also tell you how to correct to make it taste better.
That day Julie Childs taught me and gave me so much; those lessons help me still to this day during my television and my live presentation. I ask Julia right there on the set of Noon Day if I should go to culinary school. Julia Child took me by both hands and said to me “Curtis with your passion just cook wow!” I remember that every time I go onto television show or present to a live audience just share my passion my passion for food my passion for nutrition my passion for a better lifestyle. Julia Child whenever she saw me she would greet me with a hug and a hello and if ever she saw my television work she would let me know how much she appreciated it. Years later we both were appearing at the IACP Convention in San Antonio Texas; our presentations were at the exact same time so of course, I only got the people that couldn’t get into Julia presentation. We both ended about the same time and our presentations were across the hall from each other we came out and she saw me I saw her she greeted with a hug and we walked and talked and from that day forward my ticket was punched. One of the highlights of my career was when I was asked to host one of the 90th birthday parties. I was M.C. and host in Baltimore Maryland what a thrill.
Julia is the one who shared with me things like whenever doing a presentation, make sure you have whole food in addition to the chopped and prepped foods. This way people see what an apple, onion, orange even garlic looks like. There are many kids that don’t know fresh foods.
I’m still happy and thankful for the influence Julia Child had and still have on me as well as my career, my life.
I love visiting Washington D.C. the Smithsonian home to Julia’s kitchen where there are several pictures of me on the wall. Yes, I admit I’m proud of that.
I don’t know if I could thank Mrs. Julia Child check that Julie Childs for being so supportive, a guide, a mentor to me.
Curtis G Aikens Sr.
Chef, spread love