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Cooking With Wine: Julia Child Comes To Winterlicious With Bonnie Stern

It’s the third consecutive year that Toronto chef Bonnie Stern has hosted a Winterlicious event – but even she didn’t expect this kind of response.

“When we sent out the information to Winterlicious, you really don’t have a lot of room to put a lot of things. So we just said, you know, if you want to make the boeuf bourguignon from [Julie & Julia], come to this class,” she said, sitting at her Yonge and Eglinton cooking school.

She shouldn’t have worried: The event, based on the movie chronicling blogger Julie Powell’s attempts to recreate all of Julia Child’s dishes, has already sold out.

“When we saw the movie Julie & Julia, we wondered if people would come out to Julialicious. We thought, you know, maybe they would, but we didn’t expect the reaction that we got. It was so overwhelming; it was amazing.

“Things sell out here, but we’ve got a wait list for Julialicious where we could do six more classes. We just don’t have time to do that,” Stern (pictured above) said with a laugh.

For Stern, who has hosted too many courses to count – The Bonnie Stern School Of Cooking has been in business since 1973 – this one was especially personal.

“I loved the movie, because I knew Julia Child. I thought it was really wonderful that she was being revived. She was really the nicest person, she was kind to people, she was really lovely and I just think it’s great that people are talking about her again,” Stern said.

“The cookbook is so popular; it’s a number one best-seller. She really deserves it because she was really a groundbreaking cook.”

There’s also one other reason: “In the book and in the blog, where [Powell] is so disappointed that Julia doesn’t like her, I felt badly in the movie that they portrayed it that way. I think that the book was great and the blog was great in that it revived Julia.

“But – Julia was what, 90, when Powell started the blog? And nobody knew about blogs in 2003. And to put your life out there and your fights with your husband and that you hated the recipes – people just didn’t bad mouth other people so much back then. And certainly they didn’t expose their whole personal life and I think Julia just didn’t understand that. And who would swear so much?

“But if she didn’t do it, we wouldn’t be here, talking about this.”

Many of the recipes are taken from the drool-inducing movie, while others are French fare made standard by Child.

“We’re doing leek and potato soup when they come in, to warm them up, and it’s a classic Julia recipe – it’s a classic French recipe. Then we’re doing boeuf bourguignon, we’re doing mashed potatoes with the garlic, carottes vichy, a salad dressing, so they’ll get a salad, and for dessert they’re getting the chocolate almond cake that was in the movie,” Stern said.

“They get to eat all of that and they get to take home the book and the butter.”

It might seem an odd decision for the woman known at least in part for her HeartSmart series of cookbooks to pay tribute to a woman known for her love of fat.

“I don’t use ingredients without a reason and if a little bit of cream or a little bit of butter can do, rather than a whole lot, that’s what I’ll do. Julia’s recipes were of course a little bit richer. When I started the cooking school here, and when she was cooking, I mean, who knew from cholesterol?

“At the same time, she had a saying – everything in moderation, even moderation. I mean, we are giving out a pound of butter to every student who comes! Because when you saw the movie, you just wanted to go out and buy butter and cook,” Stern said.

Stern approached Gay Lea and the company agreed to provide the butter for the students.

“It’s a demonstration class, so people aren’t cooking for themselves – they aren’t going to take home any of the food. They get to eat here though – they’re going to eat everything that I make.”

That’s common for many of the classes at the school. Stern also hosts tours of cooking attractions around Toronto, like the St. Lawrence Market; and a book club. To see what else is on offer, click here.