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If you want to learn how to make Boston clam chowder, all you have to do is turn on the Food Network or wander over to Borders and browse through the American regional cookbook section. Or, hell, just type the words into Google and watch the recipes and videos stream into your home.

When François Haeringer, the 90-year-old founding chef of L’Auberge Chez Françoisin Great Falls, learned how to make the dish, he had to do it the hard way.  The following antecdote anecdote comes from The Chez François Cookbook, Revised Edition, written by Haeringer’s son, Jacques, who would eventually take over the French country inn’s kitchen for his graying father (a native Alsatian who’s still kicking it today):

Shortly after arriving in the United States in 1948, François joined his Uncle Jacques, former chef saucier under Escoffier in London, and then executive chef at Washington’s Chevy Chase Country Club. Uncle Jacques trained in the “old school” and was a very stern perfectionist. One morning he asked François to prepare Boston Clam Chowder, a New England soup that François had never even heard of. Uncle Jacques explained the method and went on to his other duities.

François labored over that soup, knowing his work would be thoroughly scrutinized. Uncle Jacques returned, tasted the soup, frowned, angrily picked up the pot, and poured its contents on the floor. Scolding François, he shouted further instructions, chiding Papa to begin again, et vite vite. Twice more the chowder was mopped up from the kitchen floor. Finally, the fourth pot met with Uncle Jacques’s approval. My father has never forgotten his introduction to regional American cooking, or the proper way to prepare Boston Clam Chowder a la française.

Photo by SauceSupreme via Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution License