Cooking for a crowd in Boston

On Sunday night, I flew out to Boston to do a demonstration at the Kitchen Xbition, an impressive setup that’s run as part of the impressive operation that is the student dining program at Northeastern University. I’ve never done a demonstration in front of a crowd, but I didn’t tell them that. I had one hour, and so I opted for the mushroom crusted steaks and red wine sauce and braised endives.

The school had everything set up when I arrived, and students and faculty showed up and suddenly, it was show time. I’d never cooked on induction, and it had been more than a year since I’d done the recipe, when I tested it for the book. For the first time on the tour, I felt genuinely nervous. It was the closest experience to stand-up comedy that I can remember. People clapped, and then crossed their arms. “Show me your stuff.” Most of the crowd were college students, sprinkled with a handful of administrators. So, I did my best to channel Julia. When I realized that the pan for the sauce had immediately turned way too hot, I tried to casually remove it from the heat and made no mention. I watched the clock and, like in my final exam at Le Cordon Bleu, I realized at some point that I would be done on time. I relaxed. And I tried to give the students the basic message of the book – that life isn’t a dress rehearsal. I read the prologue – and I sold a surprising number of books. So I guess it all went well.

That night, we went on to Brookline Books. Every time I read, it’s different. This was a good-sized crowd, a few lured in by a nice write-up in the Boston Globe. Interestingly, there was a strong contingent of Smith College students, Julia Child’s alma mater. One woman had read it already, and had pages earmarked and tags with post-its, which I found, frankly, quite amazing.

On the same day, Richard Branson was launching his new banking endeavour. Hence, he had models dressed as American revolutionaries in the square next to the university…

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