Thursday, November 01, 2018

Remembering James Beard at the Stanford Court

Erica Peters, Marelene Sorosky Gray, Jacqueline Mallorca and John Phillip Carroll
In the 1970’s and 80’s James Beard, the "dean of American cookery" took up residence at the Stanford Court hotel. The hotel was his home for three months out of the year. The San Francisco Professional Food Society recently hosted a conversation with three of his friends and co-workers, John Phillip Carroll, Jacqueline Mallorca and Marlene Sorosky Gray who reminisced about his time at the Stanford Court. It was moderated by food historian Erica Peters.  

Here are just a few highlights from the event: 

On his time in San Francisco: 
This city and this hotel room were great refuge for him. It was chaos in New York. Julia Child once referred to his New York house as being full of loonies but here he was invited to everyone's home for dinner and he was taken care of. He said, “the city just gets into my blood.” - John Phillip Carroll (JPC)

He loved the West Coast and he had a lot of friends here from years back that pampered him. Chuck Williams would have him for dinner at least once a week. He kept his private life private.  He enjoyed his life, he had a good time and he lived it up. - Jacqueline Mallorca (JM)

Even towards the end of his life he loved to party, he would tell me--"Jackie don't get old." –  (JM)

On his career:
He had a genuine interest and admiration for American cuisine and how special it was. In his hands it was new and fresh. - JPC

I think he knew he was doing something important but he was humble. - JC

During his entire career as a freelance writer he did not make a ton of money off his books and he was never good on television. He was a bit envious of Julia Child’s success but they were very good friends and spent time here together. - JPC 

Illustration of James Beard by Jacqueline Mallorca
I worked with Julia Child and James, Julia was a teacher, that was what she loved to do, she was curious Jacques is the best technical cook in the country, no one can touch him and James was like an encyclopedia when it came to food. If you wanted to know anything you could ask him and he would go into a dissertation on it. – Marlene Sorosky Gray (MG)
Kraft offered him a huge amount of money to promote squeeze Parkay. Marion Cunningham and I made toast and he wanted to like it but he hated it and said no.  - JPC

He told me, “I wouldn’t do Aunt Jemima. I don’t look good in a bandana.” -  JM

Some funny anecdotes:
Jim (James Beard) was a very jovial man. We had gone to New York for a book signing at Bloomingdales and Jim walked very slowly. We were making very stately progress and a drunk came up and said, “Aren't you Winston Churchill?” Jim roared with laughter and said, “I wish I was!” he was always fun and very social, he loved to party. - JM

In a cookware shop a woman came up to him and said excitedly, “I can’t believe it, James Child, aren’t you the famous chef and he responded not unless there is a Julia Beard. He was never insulted; he just made light of the experience. - MG

In the holiday season in the mid 70’s in the corner suites, on the top floor was Julia and Paul Child, James Beard on the 7th floor, Marcella & Victor Hazan on the 6th floor and Craig Claiborne on the 5th. If the hotel had crumbled the food world would have changed. For me it was a golden age to be involved in any aspect of food, wine and hospitality. It was a much smaller world. We were all very good friends. We were lucky to all be there are the same time. - JPC