Friend of Graza: Julianne Fraser
Q: How do you describe yourself?
J: I am an eternal optimist, a passionate student of French cuisine, an admirer of aesthetics, always open to a challenge, and a loving and supportive presence to those closest to me.
Q: Finish this sentence: Cooking for me is _____
J: An escape. Each night, I pour myself a glass of wine, put on my apron and open the fridge to imagine my next creation. As I wash, peel, cut and plate, I focus on what my hands will create, my mind pleasantly distracted from the frustrations of the day. The harder the day, the more creative and intricate my recipe becomes. I truly find it the most therapeutic and rewarding art and I rarely miss a day of cooking.
Q: You live between Paris and NYC. How do you bring the two together when celebrating the holidays?
J: My husband Robinson was born in the South West of France and over the last decade together, I’ve formed an ever-mounting passion for French cuisine. From many summer vacations, family holidays and a life in Paris, I’ve become an eager pupil to anyone willing to share their knowledge with me. The more I’ve learned, the more obsessed I’ve become.
I carefully studied his late grandmother’s legendary recipe book, noting unique recipes like stuffed goose neck and Gateau Basque. I watched how his great aunt in Toulouse sets her table for the simplest Tuesday dinner, with gorgeous monogrammed linen and vintage silverware. I observed how his mother in le Midi chooses her wine pairings from her meticulously curated cave and how his best friend’s aunt effortlessly hosts alfresco summer meals for forty upstate.
I’ve set an intention to translate this beautiful culture to my friends and family in New York City, hosting dinner parties of my own that integrate every beautiful ritual I’ve learned along the way.
The art of a memorable dinner party lies in many details, not just one.
Q: What is one small detail or personal touch you like to do as a host to get the party flowing and make your guests feel at home?
J: The art of a memorable dinner party lies in many details, not just one. I’m maniacal about the details. I like to serve Verbena tea at the end of my dinner parties, something to honor Rob’s beloved grandmother. I carefully consider my table settings, placing big personalities next to quieter ones, and include a provocative question under each nameplate to spark a lively dinner discussion.
My friends arrive hungry to my parties, knowing they’re going to eat a lot, so I ensure they’re never left waiting, usually preparing a charcuterie board inspired by the South West, including Boudin Noir, Saucisson, Foie Gras and Goose Rillettes.
Q: What’s one piece of advice or a practice you see in the food world you think is overrated, overly aspirational, unhelpful, or is otherwise just not the vibe?
J: Social media is a great source of inspiration but don’t get caught in the echo chamber. Cooking and hosting is an art, so find what inspires you and then take risks to make it your own. Your table shouldn’t look like a perfectly curated pinterest board; infuse your personality and get creative!
Q: What are your all-around life mottos, mantras, philosophies? What guides you in the kitchen?
J: The act of planning, sourcing, curating, cooking and plating, in my opinion, is the ultimate declaration of love and your guests feel it! Pour your heart and soul into a meal, and don’t worry about messing things up, you’ll never learn if you don’t make mistakes.
Q: You're a recent Ferrandi grad! What is one lesson you took away from working with some of the best of the best in French cuisine
J: Perfectly cooked vegetables have as much to do with the cutting technique as the cooking method. The brunoise cutting style makes for a perfect Caponata, with a mandoline you’ll master a Pommes Anna and mirepoix makes for a delicious Pot-au-feu.
Q: What has been bringing you joy lately?
J: I was utterly rocked by the film, La Passion de Dodin Bouffant, France’s Foreign Film submission for this year’s Oscars. For culinary lovers, this film is the most beautiful expression of passion in cooking. It literally brought me to tears and I rewinded several scenes, to ensure I didn’t miss a single detail. Truly a beautiful film about love and the love of cooking - highly recommend!
Q: What's on the horizon for you!
J: My twenty month daughter has been my sous-chef since the day I brought her home from the hospital. As a newborn, she sat in her bouncer and watched me cut and stir. As a toddler, I now pass her fresh herbs to smell, cut lemons to taste and spikey sea urchins to touch. She recently received a small kitchen of her own and it’s incredible to see her little imagination explode. I’m so excited to pass on our family’s traditions and to test and learn new recipes together.