European Spotlight: Frannie Packard, VIP chef now helping kids in Vicenza
You’re a trained chef?
I trained in Paris in 1988. It was at La Varrene, a cooking school in the heart of Paris. I was in the restaurant business in Columbus, Ohio. Managing the restaurant. And I always found myself in the kitchen. I was very happy when one of the chefs didn’t come in. I didn’t like managing a restaurant. What I liked was the food.
Where did your training take you?
I went into homes and cooked for people for special events. After that, I was a chef for the governor of Ohio. You do all the meals for the family and you do all the state lunches and dinners. Anything to do with entertaining.
What was a typical meal for the governors?
Breakfast was simple. They just ate cereal. For lunch, both first ladies liked to have soups and homemade bread and I love to make bread. For dinner, it ranged. It was the one meal the family had together during the day, so I tried to make it special.
I assume that meant no Hamburger Helper?
No. Never. Everything was from scratch. I did all the shopping and cooking. Everything.
How did those jobs prepare you for your present job?
They didn’t really. I loved my job in Ohio, but I had fallen in love with Italy. I came here to manage the club. It needed an overhaul and that’s what they hired me to do. But in addition to cooking, my background is special education. I’m not teaching in this job, but I help people and make a difference. I get to help children. I cook when I go home. It would be hard to go back to cooking full time. It’s a very demanding career. You’re on your feet all the time.
Can a gourmet chef find all they need at the commissary?
No, but it’s getting better. When I go home (to the States), I send boxes back here. Specialty items. I basically do French, Italian and American cuisine. Chinese is an art in itself. And so is German.
Do you eat at the food court?
I’ve never been into fast food. But I meet my girlfriends there and eat if they’re eating.
Do you offer advice to the cooks when you go out and eat?
I’m never that way. Never. But if it’s something good or something I’d like to learn about, I’ll ask them. Anyone can cook. It’s hard to criticize. Some of the best chefs in the world are self-trained. It’s because they love it. You have to have a passion for it.
You said you love Italian food. I’ve heard Italians don’t use a lot of ingredients in their cooking.
The simpler, the better. It doesn’t have to be difficult to be good. That’s why the Italians are geniuses. You go into some cookbooks and the ingredients are a mile long. All those tastes conflict with each other, in my opinion.
Ever have someone you looked up to?
It’s Julia (Child). When I met her, like a small child, I hugged her. She was a great woman. She really believed everyone could cook. She changed cooking and the way people thought of it.
Ever thought of having your own TV show?
I did a lot of TV. When I was with the governor, I did that kind of thing. And I loved it. I would have loved to have been Rachael Ray.
Interview by Kent Harris.
Title: Paris-trained chef who cooked for Ohio governors
Day job: Exceptional Family Member Program manager with Army Community Services at Vicenza, Italy
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