Speaking off the toque: Jacques Fox, director of education at Alain & Marie LeNótre Culinary Institute [7070 Allensby, (713)692-0077].
Q. During a radio interview, we recently heard Julia Child describe a person as "someone who will never be a cook." Is cooking something that can be taught to anyone, or does a student need to possess some sort of innate talent?
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A. You do have to have some skill that you bring to it, like any other profession, whether it is that of doctor or musician or carpenter. For those who become real chefs, it is something in their blood. Also, you have to love doing it. A person who is enthusiastic can learn to do something after a single demonstration, but someone who is not that interested may not master a technique after 20 demonstrations. For some reason that I have never really understood, medical doctors do very well in cooking classes. Lawyers, sometimes, also do very well. Certainly knowing chemistry is a good thing to bring to the kitchen, but with doctors and lawyers there is something else. I've been doing this for 28 years, and it is still not possible for me to predict how well a person will do in a cooking school just by knowing their background and education and appearance. I have to see the person working in a kitchen. Then, within two hours, I can tell if they are going to do well as a student and as a cook.