Julia Child grew up in Santa Barbara, California and spent the later years of her life there, where her impact is still felt by the coastal culinary community. In this conversation, Amy Traverso, co-host of GBH’s Weekends with Yankee, chats with Anthony Endy, Executive Chef at Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort in Solvang, California, about how Julia's French cooking techniques influence his Western-style cooking and how Julia lived life to the fullest. Here are some highlights from their conversation.
Amy Traverso: You’re in the central coast area of California. Julia Child moved to that area back in 2001. Could you talk a little bit about the food scene that existed 20 years ago in the area and how it's evolved since then?
Anthony Endy: French cooking was still very much alive, where presentation was a big forefront of cooking. It's changed so much in the past 20 years back to, almost more homey, but still developing big flavors. Agriculture has always been big in this area, so [we have] great produce and seafood, and everything was sourced here. [Cooking now] means treating the ingredients with care and flavor first and foremost, rather than presentation.
Traverso: Speaking of your style of cooking, the dish we're making today is beef Beef Bourguignon; it's the classic beef and red wine. At Alisal, you're known for a very Western approach to cooking and a lot of live-fire cooking. How does the French cooking that Julia child loved impact your cooking? And how would you adapt a recipe like Beef Bourguiognon your style?
Endy: The countryside cooking of France is very similar to that of Western or central coast cooking where it's ingredient-driven. And cast iron cooking — we do a lot of that. Adapting a recipe like that is just the difference of ingredients. We're in a wine-growing region, so it's a big part of our cooking as well as our culture and lifestyle.
Traverso: You were scheduled to participate in the inaugural Santa Barbara Culinary Experience, which was designed to highlight Julia's culinary roots in California, and the fact that she did spend her final years there. Unfortunately it was canceled because of COVID, but you had designed a really beautiful meal for that event. I’d love to hear a little bit about the meal you designed and how you connected to her legacy.
Endy: She grew up living here in the Santa Barbara County. I'm rooted here. This is my home. This is where I grew up. [The meal] was a combination of French origins as well as California history developed into one meal. We were going to put together a meal of braised lamb and grilled steak. And that was a true definition of what Julia child did here — taking locally grown produce and applying fresh technique to the great history of the California central coast.
Traverso: And I think that's one thing that as Americans, we sometimes forget about her, that we think of her as having brought pure French technique to American kitchens. But she was adapting French ingredients and technique, knowing that we couldn't get all those ingredients in America and that we might not have the same tools. She was an adapter of traditional French cooking for the American kitchen. So the fact that you were then adapting French recipes, that's very much in line with what she did.
Endy: Absolutely. She laid a groundwork of technique that can be adapted with different recipes. And her teachings really showed that it’s good to be bold, to be daring and to really go out and make use those classic tools and make it your own. And that's something she still inspires today.
The attitude she brought towards cooking, it's something I always try to get across to my new cooks, those who are coming into the kitchen, because cooking can be intimidating. And it's a stressful profession. Food really is a sharing moment between us and our guests. And she really, really defined that. Her personality really, really showed that.
I saw her later on [in California] at a restaurant. She was enjoying a turtle sundae at a local steakhouse. She lived life to the fullest and she really enjoyed it.
Traverso: Well again, thank you for meeting us here today. I wish we were meeting in person by some grape vines and a nice grill. I look forward to the day we can travel out and visit you at the ranch!
Endy: I do as well. It's a beautiful place to visit and hopefully someday soon you can come on out and enjoy it.
Watch more from the You & Julia At Home series.