“Julie & Julia” Extravaganza at The ArcLight

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Author Julie Powell and "Julie & Julia" actor Chris Messina made appearances.

Blogger gets a book deal. Plenty of my friends daydream about that scenario and have developed concepts they hope are marketable enough to hook book agents and publishers. One hitch: hardly any food bloggers have pulled it off. Julie Powell not only parlayed “The Julie/Julia Project” into a book, she also sold the rights to help fuel one-half of a new Nora Ephron movie. A small group of food and film bloggers descended upon the ArcLight on July 9 to watch the film, meet Julie and taste dishes from Julia Child’s epic cookbook.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Powell’s blog/book, she was a browbeaten employee for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation who was working to help downtown heal after 9/11. To find a creative release, she launched a blog on Salon.com, documenting her efforts to prepare all 524 recipes from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” within one calendar year. Nora Ephron features Powell’s story in “Julie & Julia” along with the story of Child’s transformation from a frustrated diplomat’s wife to a legendary chef.

After watching the movie, released August 7, I walked across the courtyard to the California School of Culinary Arts. The location was apt because the school falls under the Le Cordon Bleu banner. As I saw in the film, Julia Child enrolled at the original Paris branch of Le Cordon Bleu in 1948 and earned her toque in 1950.

I witnessed a cooking demo from chef Brian Malarkey, the executive chef and operating partner of Oceanaire Seafood Room in San Diego and a graduate of a branch of affiliated Le Cordon Bleu in Portland.

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Julie Powell assisted Brian Malarkey on two recipes from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

Everybody in the room had a Julia Child story, and Malarkey was no exception. He worked at Citrus for Michel Richard when Julia Child came into the bygone Melrose restaurant for dinner. He remembers, “There were movie stars sitting all over the dining room, and when she walked in, everybody was breathless.”

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I tried delicious boeuf bourguignon featuring seared beef cubes, peppered pancetta, chanterelle mushrooms, onions and red wine.

During the cooking demo, Malarkey rattled off quick-fire questions to Powell about her blog, book and movie. She was attracted to Child because, “She was never a chef, never claimed to be a chef,” just like her. Seems like Powell related to Child’s approachability.

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My favorite part of the event involved a food styling demo from Susan Spungen.

Susan Spungen was Martha Stewart Living’s food editor for 12 years. New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser (who has a cameo in the movie) suggested Spungen to Ephron. As a result, Spungen became the film’s food stylist and created all the food for “Julie & Julia.” “There was no way I was going to say no to this movie,” she said, “mostly because of my love of cooking and Julia Child.” Spungen held up her jam-packed cooking schedule for the film.

Spungen took us behind the scenes of film food styling. “A lot of people think of food styling, the food is fake or lacquered,” she said. “Actors ate this. It had to be real food.” The shoot posed logistical challenges. She and an assistant set up a makeshift kitchen in the corner of a stage and cooked for three months straight while the movie shot in an adjacent room. Spungen stayed as true as possible to the recipes in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” but still pulled out some styling tricks. For example, she pre-made French onion soup with mozzarella and held an electric paint remover over the cheese to create the perfect pull between bowl and mouth. FYI: French onion soup was Child’s final meal.

When I mentioned the event to my friend, a fellow food blogger, he described Powell as “brash.” During the movie, her “character” had some wild opinions about blogging, saying, “It’s kind of like being in AA. It gives you something to do one day at a time.” Her “character” is also a self-admitted narcissist, saying, ““What do you think a blog is? It’s me, me, me, day after day.” The real-life Powell was just as opinionated during her Q&A sessions. She also got a rise out of bloggers (myself included) during the Q&A when she said, “I have a blog, but I’m not a blogger.” That was a strange stance to take in a roomful of bloggers, especially since a blog enabled her rise to prominence. This should be filed under “Know your audience.”

Powell may be done with blogging (even though she has a blog), but she isn’t done writing. In December, she’s releasing a book called “Cleaving,” documenting her six-month stint as a butcher’s apprentice in upstate New York.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

I have just seen the movie and I find myself wondering as to why would Julia Child hate Julie Powell? Can anyone help explain and make me understand?

It’s not surprising to me that Julia wanted nothing to do with someone like Julie, who expresses herself with such crude profanities. Julia Child was more respectable, toward both herself and her audience. Presentation, they say, is everything. That goes for the way you present yourself verbally, too, Julie.

Julie & Julia to me is a movie about two women, with very similar lives, who live in different generations, they both had they’re dreams come true, but the movie has one thing that other movies don’t have a true love story, the acting in it was excellent, i loved the end the music is so touching, and it goes so well with the story, two women and they’re dreams

Hmmm…maybe Julie Powell sees bloggers as pathetic no-brain twits who just want to be heard and noticed – exactly why she began a blog, plus to drive herself through to a goal. Admirable, I think. Denial, on her part. Ah, well. It all inspires me anyway, though my current blog meets the WordPress challenge to “Post a Day 2011”, so my goal is to get my house organized, while suffering horrendous menopause with A.D.D. and let me tell you – what a wreckage! I loved this movie! Loved Streep as Child. This is a great American story for Powell, the success born from a kind of impoverished inner existence. AND SHE DRINKS TOO MUCH.


It’s a Nice Week for a White Wedding Day « uncouth gourmands’ blog

[…] we had some bias after reading that the real Julie said that she is a writer not a blogger when interviewed by the incredible Josh Lurie. Our favorite scene was when Julia called the cannelloni a hard […]

The Uncouth Gourmands don’t want a movie deal….we just want a book deal, reality show, merchandise line, and a magazine…no biggie.
It is actually quite exciting that this is all happening for a blogger, I mean, a writer.

I think Julie says that with contempt, that she’s no longer a blogger since she was able to land a book deal. That makes her rarified into a “writer”. Eh.

Good review on what sounds like an Interesting and fun event despite the blogger/writer issues.. looking forward to Meryl as Julia.

If not a blogger, then a… what? I’d be interested in hearing what she would call herself.

I followed up with that question and Powell said she’s a writer. I didn’t know bloggers and writers are mutually exclusive.

Very interesting — wish I had gone but at least I had a lovely dinner at Domenico that evening. Looking forward to the film — the first film based on a food blog is a must for any blogger!

Agreed. Despite Powell’s surprising views on blogging, food bloggers (and the general population) would probably still enjoy “Julie & Julia.”

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