The Right Equipment

Went to see Julie and Julia at the movies last Friday night with Priscilla. More at:

I first met Julia Child in 1990 at a reception at the Ritz in Paris. I was the newly assigned Food and  Beverage Director for the Euro Disney Resort. I stood in a receiving line to meet her and when it finally came my turn, the lady next to her, who was someone who wanted to work for Disney and had invited me to this reception, unknown to me, said, “Julia, I want you to meet Lee Cockerell who is in charge of food for Euro Disney Hotels.“ I looked up at Julia who stands 6′ 2“ or she looked down at me who stands 5′ 9 1/2“ exactly, and said, “ Nice to meet you Mr. Cockerell. I hope the food will be better here than it is in Orlando.“ I was already insecure being in charge of food in France and with this comment from Julia Child my self confidence went down a notch or two. Well, the food turned out great at Euro Disney and the French were quite complimentary and they really loved the California wines as well.

Fast forward to 1996 where now I am the VP of operations for Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando. One evening I attended a Wine and Food Festival event and there she is again and she is still 6′ 2“ tall and by now after the opening of Disneyland Paris I am about 5′ 5“. She said, “Mr. Cockerell I want to tell you that the food here at Walt Disney World is very good.“ With that comment I returned to my original height.

Receiving a compliment on food from Julia Child was a real honor for me and for Dieter Hannig who is the one that made the food at WDW great. I just gave him the authority to do his thing and he made it happen.

The movie Julie and Julia is a not to miss movie if you like to eat great food and at the same time want to get some great lessons in leadership, adversity recovery, management, tenacity and going after your dream.

And it is never too late. Julia Child was almost forty years old when she started becoming a professional cook in Paris. She learned to speak fluent French at 40 + and become world famous in her 50’s. She lived her dream for the next 40 years until she died at 92. It took her eight years to write her famous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.“ I almost died taking two years to write my book.

The lessons here are that if you want something, go after it. Julia was a great manager. Her recipes are exact measurements and if you follow them you will produce great food.  Many cook books are not well tested. Julia Child’s is. She was a master of details and follow up. She was very competitive and wanted to be the best so she practiced and practiced and practiced to become better with her technical skills than all others around her. She was an American in France and the French have great admiration for her because she knew what she was doing. You can’t fake cooking good food. Her attitude during times of adversity was up beat and positive and many times she just started all over when troubled times appeared in the kitchen or anywhere else.

She had all of the right equipment which is vital to great results. Also Julie Powell had many of the same traits in a different way. She cooked all 524 of Julia’s recipes in 365 days and became famous in her own right. Both of these women had very supportive husbands who adored them.

Priscilla and I had planned to stop at Olive Garden to get a salad and soup since we had, had a big lunch, but after seeing this movie we telephoned our favorite restaurant Coq Au Vin on Orange Avenue in Orlando and begged to get a table on Friday night at 7 PM. Peter Burke the manager and the sommelier was very kind after we told him we had just seen the movie and must have some great French food. The owners Sandy and Reimund Pitz are doing a wonderful job of carrying on the tradition of excellence that was started so many years ago my the founders Louie and Magdalena Perrotte. Priscilla loves that they offer half portions at a reduced price and you can bring you own wine for a small corkage fee of 16.00. The soufflés are also a not to miss. The service is always top notch, not formal but well executed.

Don’t miss this movie and don’t miss this restaurant. If you are going to the restaurant after you see the movie I suggest you make a reservation because you might not be as lucky as we were and you will end up eating cheeseburgers somewhere. Apparently every night the Coq Au Vin has many unexpected guests arrive at the door after seeing the movie begging for a table.

Bon Appetit …..Lee

PS: The reason I did not post last Friday is that I did not have the right equipment like Julia did have. I left my laptop at my beach house and did not get it back until last night.Like I said, having the right equipment is vital. Signing off from Hilton Head Island. Tomorrow, I have two seminars and one keynote speech so I am heading to bed early tonight

1 Comment
  1. Lee,

    You are right about the movie. It is so rare today and refreshing to see a movie that is inspiring with a definite example of goal setting and achievment in the face of adversity. A truly great performance. I highly endorse the movie as well. You think you could swing it for my wife and I to get a table at Coq Au Vin the next time we are in Orlando? Hope you are well.

    Gary Stewart

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