Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Salute To Craig Claiborne

Craig Claiborne changed the way people ate and cooked. He introduced New Yorkers to good food and interesting restaurants Thanks to him millions of people discovered the lure of ethnic cuisines and got away from their bland American diets. It was only fifty years ago that Mr. Claiborne changed American tastes and palates,but it could have been the dark ages of American cooking.

The Dining section of The New York Times celebrated this amazing powerhouse today. The famed Pete Wells along with the even more famous chef Jacques Pepin contributed pieces as well as a humorous one by Bryan Miller. These are fond reminiscences of a larger than life man. Surprisingly Mr.Claiborne was not born in New York (although one might think so. ) He was raised in Sunflower , Mississippi a  town known more for its' jazz and blues than for gourmet cooking, Using the GI Bill, he was able to go to a hotel school in Lausanne , Switzerland . He then landed in New York City and was inspired by the famed food critic MFK Fisher. His contributions led to the birth of The Times Food section.

He was the first man to write extensive food reviews for The Times. thanks to him, multitudes of newspapers across the country started adding their own food critics and recipe sections. Mr . Claiborne may be credited with giving birth to the cult of celebrity chef. Mr Pepin was one of these early ones and also developed a long friendship with Mr. Claiborne. Not only that, the French chef had his recipes featured in the Times  , introducing readers to the joys of Gallic flavor. Mr. Claiborne also was responsible for the careers of the great Marcella Hazan for Italian cooking,Diana Kennedy for Mexican and Virginia Lee for Chinese. However he also extolled the virtue of the home chef, probably influenced by the great Southern dishes he grew up on in his mother's boarding house.

Craig Claiborne was definitely one of the pillars of today's Times Dining section. He brought real and exotic cooking first to New Yorkers and then to the world. He is up there with Escoffier when it comes to food.

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