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Simone Beck; French Chef for Americans

December 25, 1991| From Associated Press

PARIS — Simone Beck, whose cookbooks helped bring French cuisine lusciously alive in American kitchens, has died at the age of 87.

Miss Beck, known as "Simca," died Friday at her 300-year-old home in Chateauneuf-de-Grasse, near Nice.

Little known in her native France, Miss Beck built a reputation over three decades as America's French chef.

"I always preferred to write for Americans," she said in an interview last year. "French people think they already know everything about cooking."

She gained celebrity status in cooking circles 33 years ago with the publication of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," which she wrote with Julia Child and Louisette Bertholle. The book became a bible of French cuisine.

A second volume followed with equal success.

Her fifth and final book, "Food and Friends, Recipes and Memoires from Simca's Cuisine," was written with Suzanne Patterson and published by Viking this year.

Born in Normandy in 1904, Miss Beck enjoyed a privileged childhood and said she learned food basics from the family cook. During World War II, Nazis occupied the family chateau and imprisoned her second husband, Jean Fischbacher, who died in 1986.

Miss Beck stumbled onto cooking as a way of life in the 1930s, when she discovered haute cuisine and one of its top teachers, Henri Pellaprat. She coaxed him into helping prepare dinner parties, all the while jotting notes.

After the war, Miss Beck cooked and taught at L'Ecole des Trois Gourmandes in France, which she founded with Child and Bertholle. She later continued teaching at her Paris apartment, at her home in southern France and on tours.

Fancy sauces and souffles aside, Miss Beck had some plain ideas about cooking.

"Don't talk to me about nouvelle cuisine," she once said. "It made food attractive . . . but that's about all." As for raw fish: "an abomination."

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