Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery Oral History Project

Interview with Cathy Kaufman



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Technological University Dublin


Cathy was born in small town in New Jersey, with Manhattan visible in the distance, a bit like Oz. She had a history major from college but qualified as a lawyer, influenced by the feminist movement of 1970s with women following what had been traditionally seen as male career paths. Cooking was a respite from the law and was a form of antidote, so after five years of contemplating a career change, Cathy signed up for a course in Peter Kump’s New York cooking school where she was particularly influenced by one of the instructors, Katherine Alford, who was smart, clever and sarcastic. Internship for two months followed the sixteen week course, and then Cathy worked for over two years in a place called Industria Superstudio, which was a complex of fashion photography studios that had a captive kitchen, catering for up to 100 covers a day. A period as an executive chef in a catering company followed before landing the ideal job as personal chef to an enormously wealthy man, cooking for six people four days a week for seventeen years with medical and pension rights. During this time, Cathy began teaching part time in Peter Kump’s and gradually started giving classes in food history which proved enormously popular. Cathy was so fascinated doing the research because the one thing she missed about law was the brief writing and crafting a story and a narrative to be persuasive. Here she met Carolin Young, who took on of her classes, and also Andy Smith, who is the person responsible for Cathy’s introduction to the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Harlan Walker stands out as one of the first and fondest memories Cathy has of early Oxford, but she made good friends over the years (British, European and American). Cathy’s paper on eggs in Roman cookery led her to strike up a friendship with Sally Grainger and Chris Grocock and they gave great assistance reading early chapters of Cathy’s book ‘Cooking in Ancient Civilisations’ (2006: Greenwood Press). Carolin Young introduced Cathy to Barbara Wheaton and eventually she became involved with the American Friends of the Oxford Symposium and from there onto the board of Trustees of the Symposium. She currently acts as programmer for the Oxford Symposium.

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oral interview, historian, food, publisher, Cathy Kaufmann


Arts and Humanities



Interview with Cathy Kaufman