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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Julia Child’s Impact Still Going Strong

American Institute of Wine & Food includes Milwaukee chapter

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Last year’s film release of Julie & Julia, a comedy that intertwines the story of Julia Child's start in the cooking profession with blogger Julie Powell's challenge to cook every recipe in Child's first book in one year, reminded some and taught others just how influential the late Julia Child was on America’s culinary culture.

Along with a prolific career as a cookbook author and star of numerous television culinary programs, Child also made a profound impact with an organization she founded in 1981, the American Institute of Wine & Food (AIWF). Child co-founded the group with vintners Robert Mondavi and Richard Graff, among others, to provide a forum for the enjoyment of gastronomy, the study of the relationship between food and culture.

Abiding by a mission to “enhance quality of life through education about what we eat and drink,” AIWF currently boasts 27 chapters with 4,000 members in the United States. The Milwaukee Chapter of AIWF, which has more than 100 members, is under the watchful direction of a board of directors, with Fred Austermann serving as chairman and his spouse, Kay Austermann, serving as secretary and treasurer.

The duo loves to cook and regards the chapter meetings, usually held at local restaurants, as “an opportunity to enjoy wonderful food and drink,” Kay says, “along with the fellowship that comes from dining around a dinner table with other folks who love to eat.”

The Austermanns say the Milwaukee Chapter of AIWF is diverse, comprised of people from all walks of life who share an interest in food, wine, education and social outings. Members receive special pricing on nationwide AIWF events and programs, discounts on magazine subscriptions and KitchenAid appliances and opportunities to rub elbows with renowned chefs, authors, restaurateurs, wine and food producers, and other culinary professionals and enthusiasts.

Another perk of joining AIWF is that it provides members with a popular forum in which to help thousands of children build a sound food and nutrition foundation. “Days of Taste,” one of AIWF’s signature interactive programs, aims to help children develop a healthy food vocabulary, understand that locally grown ingredients are the freshest and gain the experience to contrast flavors and develop taste memories. Each chapter develops its “own unique program, but they all share the common thread of encouraging children to appreciate the taste of good, fresh, local food,” AIWF states.

On Monday, April 19, AIWF will be hosting its annual dinner and silent auction at the University Club of Milwaukee. Proceeds from a dinner and wine pairing created by University Club executive chef Douglas Pallo go toward funding a field-trip program for selected Milwaukee inner-city elementary schools. The students will visit a rural farm, an award-winning urban farm and the MATC teaching kitchen to meet culinary arts students and enjoy a lunch.

Along with “Days of Taste,” AIWF’s Milwaukee Chapter also generates funds for local baking and culinary arts scholarships. A glimpse at a typical menu from an AIWF event—think deep-water Norway lobster poached in truffle butter and fig-stuffed leg of duck confit—is proof that joining the Institute can be both socially fulfilling and mouth-wateringly delicious.

For more information, visit www.aiwf.org.