The Apron Ties that Bind

Chef Blank’s gentle obsession with written recipes belies an influence stronger on his cooking than his culinary library: cooking with others who left profound and lasting impressions on his culinary scope and style.

Among the influences on Blank’s cooking was the formidable kitchen presence of his Würtemburger grandmother, Mary Katherina Blank (1859 - c. 1954). Fritz’s first cooking memory is, at age three, helping to make his Oma’s potato salad. After more than fifty years, Blank still makes this salad by the gallon for staff meals and special occasions.

 

A Glamorous Cream-Filled Torte in a Blaze of Glory

Blank admits that, as a child, he ruined his mother’s copy of American Woman’s Cook Book through constant recipe testing. This replacement is one of his many editions from 1938 – 1953.

 

Chef Louis Szathmary

“I luff you like a brother.”
Louis I. Szathmary (1919-1996)

Blank still delights in impishly imitating the cooking advice of his late Hungarian friend, Chef Louis Szathmary. As he takes on a heavy accent and furrows his brow in stern disapproval, the chef wags a chastising finger. “Freetz,” he precisely intones, “I luff you like a brother, but you don’t know sheet about cookink potatoes. Don’t vorry,” the eyebrows relax, “I vill show you how!”

Through their ribald faxes and daily telephone conversations, it seemed each had found an earthy doppelganger. Both were former professionals and military officers who ran successful restaurants. Both loved the foods of central Europe. And both maintained massive cookbook collections plundered for facts, recipes and inspiration. Szathmary’s exacting expectations, his books, and his letters to Fritz are an enduring legacy of instructions that began years ago.

Szathmary wrote several cookbooks. At right, his recipe for roast goose has undergone a particularly thorough reading by Blank. Despite all the ink, the dish appears virtually unchanged every winter on Deux Cheminées’ menu.

 

Julie Dannenbaum

“I Won’t Spit in My Fat as Some Chefs Do.”
Julie Dannenbaum on determining cooking temperature.

In the 1970’s Chef Blank occasionally attended cooking classes of Philadelphia kitchen maven Julie Dannenbaum. She impressed the then-microbiologist by the natural ease with which she used equipment and ingredients and by a teaching style that emphasized the demonstration of technique over handing out recipes. Blank tips his toque to Dannenbaum’s ongoing influence at Deux Cheminées with his Crêpes au Chocolat à la Julie.

 

Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

A trusted advisor on Chinese ingredients and techniques, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo makes only rare contributions to Deux Cheminées’ recipes. The guidance of this Cantonese teacher and expert is more likely to appear at informal staff meals.

 

 

Three-year-old Fritz Blank with his Oma, Mary Katherina Blank.
Photograph. Pennsauken, NJ, 1943.

Mary Blank’s Cleaver.

Mary Blank’s cleaver, a retired relic of Chef Fritz’s early cooking days. While his grandmother used the cleaver to dispatch snapping turtles for soup, young Fritz killed chickens with it for family meals.

Berolzheimer, Ruth, (ed.).
American Woman’s Cook Book.
Chicago, IL: Consolidated Book Publishers, 1938.

 

Louis Szathmary at the James Beard House.
Photograph. New York, NY, 1972.

(left) Gundel, Karoly et al.
100 Hungarian Recipes.

Corvina, Hungary: 1956.

(right) Living Legends Series, Hungarian Dinner with Louis Szathmary and Fritz Blank at the James Beard House, New York.
Menu. 1993.

Szathmary’s thumbprint on Blank’s cooking is reflected in a sizable collection of Hungarian cookbooks.

Szathmary, Louis, et alii.
Hors d’Oeuvres I.
Np: A. E. Kreatschman, 1969.

Szathmary, Louis.
The Chef’s Secret Cook Book.
Chicago, IL: Quadrangle Books, 1972.

Julie Dannenbaum.
Photograph.
On loan from Julie Dannenbaum.

Dannenbaum, Julie.
Julie Dannenbaum’s Creative Cooking School.
New York: McCall Publishing Co., 1971.

A replacement copy bought after a 1987 fire at Deux Cheminées’ original Camac Street location destroyed part of the library.

“Kung Hei Fat Choy” Fred Feretti, Fritz Blank, and Eileen Yin-Fei Lo in the Kitchen of Deux Cheminées.
Photograph. Philadelphia, PA: 2000.

Yin-Fei Lo, Eileen.
The Dim Sum Dumpling Book.
New York: Macmillan, 1995.

Yin-Fei Lo, Eileen.
The Chinese Kitchen.

New York: William Morrow, 1999.

Home | Exhibit Introduction | A Chef and His Library | Someone's in the Kitchen with Fritz | Standing in the Stockpots of Giants

Great Composers | Victus Populi | A Fine Mess | My Dear Heinrich | Cattail City | May I Take Your Menu? | Guten Appetit

Acknowledgements | Fritz Blank Biography

© 2002 University of Pennyslvanian Library Trustees