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Simone Beck, America’s Celebrity French Cook, Dies

December 21, 1991

PARIS (AP) _ Simone Beck, whose cookbooks helped bring French cuisine lusciously alive in American kitchens, died Friday, family and friends said. She was 87.

Beck, known as ″Simca,″ died at her home in Chateauneuf-de-Grasse, near Nice.

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

″I always preferred to write for Americans,″ Beck 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, unlocking the secrets of Hollandaise, Bordelaise and bechamel sauces for Americans.

A second volume followed with equal success.

Child, her friend, described Beck as ″the very essence of ’la belle France‴ in the introduction to Beck’s fifth and final book, published by Viking this year.

″She has been teacher and ambassador of French taste and culture to so many of us in this country, including myself,″ Child wrote.

The book, ″Food and Friends, Recipes and Memoires from Simca’s Cuisine,″ was co-written Suzanne Patterson, who also writes for The Associated Press.

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

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 down notes.

After the war, 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, 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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