Julia Child wasn’t flustered. There were 420 fans in line for an autograph at the downtown Minneapolis Dayton’s, some ready to buy her new book, “In Julia’s Kitchen With Master Chefs,” others carrying earlier volumes.
It was April 26, 1995, and Child, at age 82, wouldn’t leave until she signed every book, bread board and wooden spoon from her supporters.
“This was better than shaking hands with a sports figure,” said Roger Schlins at the time.
He was a personal chef who had spent three hours in line to be the first to shake her hand.
“I feel like I just won the Masters of cooking. She’s such an institution. And she doesn’t charge for an autograph.”
One cook after another offered words of gratitude, all referring to her simply as “Julia.”
“Keep working with Jacques Pépin. I love when you fight over garlic and butter.”
“I went to chef school because of you.”
“You taught me to cook.”
Child listened closely to each of their comments. “It’s so important to have eye contact,” she later said.
Fans routinely mobbed the grande dame of American cooking when on tour, then on her ninth book. She had debuted on TV in 1963, with her signature phrase, “Bon appétit!” at the close.
“This is the best profession to be in,” she said later as we chatted. “It’s a big brotherhood, a family of cooks. And the best part is that we get to eat afterward.”
Which we did. A trio of us — Child, Lynne Rossetto Kasper of St. Paul (who had been featured in the book, and who was herself the author of “The Splendid Table”) and I — walked across the skyway to Goodfellow’s in the Conservatory for lunch, sitting down in the near-empty dining room, since it was long after the noontime rush.
Child still cut an imposing figure, though her 6-foot-2 frame was slightly stooped. Witty and gracious, she signed autographs and posed for photos with the restaurant staff.
“How are you?” asked the waiter.
“Hungry!” said Child with enthusiasm and a broad smile.
Then she turned to us and sighed, noting her dinner the night before. Everyone wanted to feed her fancy food. “But sometimes I just want a burger.”
Child toasted her visit with a glass of wine and a cheery “Here’s to Minnesota,” before sampling her first taste of walleye, served with a pickled cucumber-onion relish.
“This is very trendy, isn’t it?” she chuckled, then waved over the waiter.
“We’d like more wine.”