Chef Fritz and His City: My Education in the Master's Kitchen

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9781938288371: Chef Fritz and His City: My Education in the Master's Kitchen
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It was the first visit to Philadelphia's Deux Cheminées restaurant for Samuel Young and his wife, Risa, and after the meal, Chef Fritz Blank came grumbling by to join them for a few minutes. Despite his rant, though, his eyes were merry, and he left the table with a joke about the tears of the city’s chefs.

After that engaging introduction, it was hard not to say oui when the mail brought an announcement that a class with Blank would be introducing students to the preparation of three simple French meals, followed by a sumptuous lunch at Deux Cheminées.

That was the start of a personal and culinary odyssey over the years that took Young through kitchens and cooking schools, dining rooms and classrooms, and―most important―into a rich and abiding friendship with the great chef himself. Now Young's new book takes us all along the path that brought such a full menu of varied experiences, fascinating people, and immersion into the entertaining, warmly human story of the highly creative and talented Fritz Blank.

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About the Author:

Samuel Young has been a writer, editor, publisher, photographer, and photography editor, principally for magazines. His work has appeared in Holiday, Travel Holiday, Town & Country and Connoisseur, among other publications, on subjects ranging from food and travel to art, architecture, music, and the paranormal. A Harvard graduate, Young lived in New York, Umbria, Austin, and Philadelphia before moving to Albuquerque, where he resides with his wife, artist and designer Risa Benson. He remainss an avid cook, thanks in large measure to the tutelage of Chef Fritz Blank.

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The chef, all billowy in white, navigated his dining room like a ship under sail, greeting the few customers. When he arrived at our table, he docked himself in the extra chair and let out a great sigh.

One snowflake falls, everyone stays home. No customers. No delivery trucks.

Months after my article on Philadelphia had appeared in Travel Holiday,the city was recovering from a winter cold snap that had put the region into a kind of cryogenic suspension. When the cold abated, my wife and I resolved to raise our spirits by venturing out to Deux Chemines, a restaurant well regarded in our region but one we had never tried. It was just the ticket: remarkable food and wine served in the not-too-formal surroundings of the former Princeton Club. The waiters wore their tuxedos without pomposity, and fires blazed cheerfully in several fireplaces. We did not want our meal to end, but when it did, we were consoled by the unexpected arrival of the chef.

Visiting tables is a custom the Troisgros family introduced in the 1950s at their restaurant near Lyon. Visiting tables to grumble, as Chef Fritz Blank seemed in the mood to do that evening, might be peculiar to Philadelphia, a place where grousing is endemic.

Youre in a cruel line of work, Chef, I said, wanting to commiserate.

Blank leaned forward. His ruddy skin and the short English toque he wore low on his brow gave him a fierce aspect, but his blue eyes were merry.

Dont get me started, he said, forgetting that he had been ranting about this and that for several minutes. Do you know the saying about Philadelphias four rivers?

We did not.

Well, theres the Delaware, right?

Yes.

And the Schuylkill?

Yes.

And the Wissahickon?

The Wissahickon was really a creek, not a river, but we didnt quibble.

And the fourth. . . . Blank raised a corner of his apron and pretended to wipe a tear from his cheek. The fourth river, he said with quavering voice, is the tears of the chefs!

We laughed. Blank raised himself out of the chair, waved jauntily, and moved on.

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Young, Samuel
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