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Élisabeth Brassart (1897–1992) was the proprietress of the Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris from 1945 to 1984. Le Cordon Bleu had been founded in 1895 by Marthe Distel and Henri-Paul Pellaprat. The present owner, André J. Cointreau, purchased it from Brassart, who was an old family friend.
Brassart managed to attract many notable chefs to teach at the Le Cordon Bleu under her tenure. She was a dedicated, smart, astute businesswoman who gave the school its impeccable international reputation. Madame Brassart had an extraordinary vision of the future of cooking. She understood before anybody that people around the world would enjoy not only their meals but also would enjoy cooking. The school was a very international school under her leadership. Students came from the USA, from Japan and around the world. She had at the school some of the best chefs at this time, among them the famous Pellaprat. She had an extraordinary sense of humor (That she used to manage her Chefs). She had renowned friends all around the world.
Madame Brassart managed the school until 1984, at the age of 87 she decided it was time to retire. She sold it to the present owner, André J. Cointreau.
"The truth is that Mme. Brassart and I got on each other's nerves. She seemed to think that awarding a student a diploma was like inducting them into some kind of secret society; as a result the school's hallways were filled with an air of petty jealousy and distrust. From my perspective, Mme. Brassart lacked professional experience, was a terrible administrator and tangled herself up in picayune details and politics..."- from My Life In France, excerpted in The New York Times, February 19, 2006
In the 2009 film, Julie & Julia, Brassart was portrayed by Joan Juliet Buck in accordance to how Child described her. The movie has a caricatured version of her to dramatize a famous historical incident that Julia Child wrote about and others have repeated which certainly does not properly represent most people's memory of her. Shortly after the film's release, Nina Zagat, who also spent time at Le Cordon Bleu under Brassart, and her husband responded to the film's portrayal with an article comparing Brassart and Child, whom they both knew personally and stating that Brassart was more sympathetic in real life. "Having known both women, we can safely say that it's hard to imagine two less compatible people. Julia was tall and assertive with a loud, braying voice in English—one can only imagine what she sounded like in French. Madame Brassart, in contrast, was petite, elegant, and aristocratic, and spoke impeccable French and English, as well as several other languages. She also was an important figure in culinary education, having successfully led Le Cordon Bleu from the late 1940s through 1985. As her niece, the distinguished ceramicist Martine Vermeulen, of Feu-Follet Pottery, reminded us just last night, she had the clearest skin and the most piercing blue eyes--"You could never put anything over on her, not with those eyes."From our point of view, Madame Brassart was much more sympathetic than portrayed in the film--she had a great sense of humor and could be very funny in an understated way ("Laughter was de rigueur with her," her niece said)--and her achievements as a culinary educator, much like Julia's, are indisputable.
- IBIBLIO.org: A history of Le Cordon Bleu
- LA Times: Andre Cointreau profile
- Kathleen Allen-Weber, Marie-Lucie Mauger Raconte-moi tout!: French culture today 1986 - Page 62 "(sauce) pans Les écoles pour devenir un fin cordon bleu attirent autant les hommes que les femmes. Au 40 de l'avenue Bosquet, sous la direction vigilante de Madame Brassart, une grand-mère de charme comme on n'en fait plus, le Cordon Bleu, ."
- Victor William Geraci, Elizabeth S. Demers Icons of American Cooking 2011- Page 64 "Empowered by her new passion for food, Child enrolled in a six-month course at the Cordon Bleu on October 4, 1949. There, with the guidance of master chef Max Bugnard, she took a course for housewives, but proprietor Madam Elizabeth Brassart did not favor American students."
- NY Times: Eat, Memory by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
- LIFE - 19 nov. 1951 - Page 90 "But Cordon Bleu's accustomed disorganization continued to the end. Not until 6 did Mme. Brassart arrive to hand out Cordon Bleu pins and diplomas. We had a quick look at the little cards blue-inked with our names and "Diplome de Cuisine ..."
- Zagat, Nina and Tim Zagat (August 7, 2009). "The Unsung Heroine of Julie & Julia". Zagat.com.
Kummer, Corby, "Paris reacts to Julie and Julia," September 17, 2009, The Atlantic Monthly.