Jewels by Dean Chamberlain

I hated Paris when I first lived there. While my ex spent every waking hour in the studio recording first ‘A View to a Kill’ then the ‘Arcadia’ album, I was left to fend for myself in what I initially found to be a cold, unfriendly city. Oddly, only the fashion world felt welcoming by day, not how one would normally describe the business. Oh! And my beloved Bar Theatre… a brasserie down the street from the Plaza Athenee Hotel where we lived. Every day I would sit there alone after my castings, tears dripping into my comforting croque monsieur that made the perfect cheese pull with every bite. The waiters would do mime to bridge the language barrier in hopes of cheering the American in despair.

Julie Anne Rhodes for Jill Magazine
You see, I was endlessly frustrated by the butcher who wouldn’t serve me because I put the accent over the wrong end of jambon (as if he didn’t know what I meant when pointing to the damn ham ordering “à six pièces de jambon s’il vous plaît“), the crazy taxi driver that clutched my arm so hard it hurt, insisting I accompany him to the police station after I witnessed an accident (I broke free and ran into Hermes for shelter – they had to shut the store down to protect me from that lunatic), or the time I was held for six hours at the Supermarche for counterfeit money that wasn’t counterfeit, and overheard the manager threaten (in French) to fire the nice Russian sales clerk, if she translated one more word for the American bitch. I did understand quite a bit of French, I just didn’t want to communicate with these people after being chastised for trying.

Julue Anne Rhodes for Jill Magazine, Paris
By night, Paris was another story. Famed photographer and friend Peter Beard was determined to make me fall in love with Paris. Every evening when he finished at Yves Saint Laurent, he would ring my room for me to meet him in bullshot country, meaning the Plaza Relais bar, with a posse of interesting characters in toe to introduce to me. Mick Jagger, Jenna de Ronay, and Iman among them. Dinner would either be at Natasha’s, Le Copoule, L’Amis Louis, or Dave’s. The evenings inevitably blurred into the next morning after, quite literally, dancing on table tops at Les Bains Douche all night. Yes, I adored Paris by night. Peter was successful.

The flat on Avenue Montaigne by Dean Chamberlain
I also enjoyed being ensconced in the splendid luxury of the hotel, so I went kicking and screaming all the way when, when after six months and a monumental bar bill that PB and I ran up, Nick forced me to move into a flat across the street. That was a big mistake. Cartier and Maude Frizon were right downstairs, so the move actually cost him a great deal more money. Every time new stock would arrive, the store managers would delightedly run out to collar me on my way into the building. It would’ve been rude to say no!

I think Nick purchased that flat, because it made great dinner conversation mentioning that Marlene Dietrich lived in our building. Long before the intrusive paparazzi we know today existed, I would often look out of my kitchen window as I made my morning coffee to find cranes with photographers desperate for pictures of the reclusive legend. At times, even Nick and I would loiter in the hallway hoping to catch a glimpse of her as her friends arrived to play mahjong each week.

Nile Rodgers
Cest’ Chic! Julie Anne Rhodes and Nile Rodgers
All this reminiscing started after bumping into ‘View to a Kill’ producer, Nile Rodgers as he was writing his soon to be released biography. Nile and I never shared croque monsieurs, but Meryl Streep and Steve Martin certainly made them popular again in the hit film ‘It’s Complicated’.

Croque Monsieur

Servings: 4


for the Mornay (cheese) sauce
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • 2 cups of grated Gruyere Cheese (either Comte’ or a creamy Morbier are preferable), divided
assemble the croque monsieur
  • 4 slices of white bread
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 ounces of good quality ham, sliced

1). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

for the Mornay (cheese) sauce

2).Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add flour and cook for two minutes to rid it of the starchy flavor. Slowly add hot milk, stirring constantly, until sauce is smooth and thickened, using the back of the wooden spoon to press out any clumps.

3). Remove sauce from heat and immediately add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1 cup of the Gruyere, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until cheese is melted.

assemble the croque monsieur

4). Toast the bread. Spread 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon onto each of the toasted slices.

5). Place 4 of the toasts on a jelly roll pan (mustard side up), top with the ham, 3/4 cup of the reserved Gruyere divided between the 4, then the other 4 slices of toast on top. Spread Mornay sauce evenly over each sandwich and sprinkle with the 1/4 cup remaining Gruyere.

6). Bake in the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Turn on broiler, move to top shelf in oven and broil until golden brown on top, about 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions:I prefer mine “straight up”, but in the film it was served with a fresh green salad, or you could add French fries.
Variation: I will sometimes make the Mornay sauce with a pinch of cayenne instead of the nutmeg for a little spicier kick.
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  • May 10, 2010
    11:13 am

    What a great story! Daytime hours must have been excrutiating for you.I was expecting to hate Paris, and ended up in love with it. Apparently, my attempts at the language were so entertaining they felt sorry for me–at least the barful of people who couldn't stop laughing when I was asking for directions back to my hotel thought so. The Swiss, however, couldn't wait for me to leave.

  • May 10, 2010
    3:31 pm

    Love this first outfit, great photosCarly Guerrero

  • May 10, 2010
    3:37 pm

    I wish I was the croque-monsieur (big smile)Nordine Kadri

  • May 10, 2010
    3:44 pm

    Yum!Emily Cash

  • May 10, 2010
    4:29 pm

    What a story!!! How rude people can so easily be! I wonder did you and Nick ever meet Marlene after all?Colleen Moffatt

  • May 10, 2010
    4:31 pm

    Hehehe Lane, and thanks Carly and Emily. No, Coleen we never did, but we did befriend one of her elderly friends that used to tell us fabulous stories about her.

  • May 10, 2010
    4:32 pm

    An Italian comic told in an interview a similar story in which she asked "un verre d'eau s'il vous plait" and the barmaid didn't serve her because she couldn't pronounce the word "eau" correctly!!I live in Sloane Avenue with my flatmate Roberta…Roberta loves collecting bags by big brands,she can't resist and you know that near by there are a lot of "interesting shops".Everytime we go along King's rd the shop assistants recognize her and exhort her to buy bags….Martina D' Epifanio

  • May 10, 2010
    4:33 pm

    Don't tell me: I was born in Paris and I've always lived there … and every day I'm amazed at how rude and unfriendly people can be in general … :-/Séverine Boye

  • May 10, 2010
    4:34 pm

    Séverine… eventually I made some of the best friends ever in Paris, and I miss it terribly. Guess the grass is always greener…

  • May 10, 2010
    4:35 pm

    You look just like your daughter in the Jill Magazine photos. I just watched 'Its Complicated" last night. Thank you for the recipe!Melinda McCoy LaBarge

  • May 10, 2010
    4:35 pm

    My grandparents got nasty looks when they didn't eat thier pizza with a knife and forkCarly Guerrero

  • May 10, 2010
    4:37 pm

    I totally disliked Paris when I visited. It was hot, people were so rude, sweaty, hairy and stuck up. Being a non-meat eater, I was petrified to eat and I think the kicker for me was the fact that you had to pay extra for creamer for your coffee!!! Haha No thanks. Loved your story… :)Kim Phillips Cuccia

  • May 10, 2010
    4:41 pm

    Come on Kim… you have to stop, look around and see the beauty, the history, the splenor of Paris, and then ignore the odd rude Parisian. A lot of it has to do with accepting the local ways rather than expecting them to conform to ours. I was being a total brat about one of the most magnificent cities in the world.Some Croatians made Paris feel like downright southern hospitality last year when Tatajana and I went, but I had to remind myself I have not lived through what they had, and chose to ignore the rudeness and adore the beauty.

  • May 10, 2010
    4:44 pm

    I absolutely adore Paris now… it just took me time to adjust. Look how sweet the waiters were to me at the Bar Theatre… not all Parisians are rude. I don't want anyone to misunderstand and think I hate Paris! I miss it terribly!

  • May 10, 2010
    5:43 pm

    Haha…You are totally right. I can be a real brat. :) In all honesty, I just wilt and fall apart when it's hot. If I had been there in cooler weather I'm sure I'd have been much more agreeable. It was beautiful, and the history was fascinating. It's not been my favorite destination however…Kim Phillips Cuccia

  • May 10, 2010
    5:43 pm

    Well girls, we need to remember that America is the land of the free, so we are looked down upon for what we do/don't do. I moved from Missouri to Oregon when I was 15 and it's taken me 20 yrs to finally accept. i miss Kansas City, but not that much (my family and chums)Carly Guerrero

  • May 10, 2010
    5:44 pm

    @Julie: we know you don't hate Paris ;)But sometimes when I see the way foreigners are treated here, I'm a little ashamed … not all people are the same, thank God, but most people could really do better!Yes the grass is always greener … if I left Paris one day I'd miss it, and I'd probably miss the people as well !Séverine Boyer

  • May 10, 2010
    7:29 pm

    Thanks for the recipe!! I can't wait to try it. I really hated Paris at first too. I love the city itself and the sites… but the people were so rude to me, and it smelled bad. That's saying something as a native Detroiter! My favorite European city though is hands-down, Prague…lots of treasures there and very nice people, with Vienna a close second. I too, have tales of parisians being rude to me over some mispronunciation and refusing to serve me by pretending not to understand me, though I do have memories of someone there who was nice enough to help me when I was lost. Maybe now that Paris is becoming more ethnically diverse that has changed?

  • May 11, 2010
    5:17 am

    I love those (minus the meat)….. :)Meagan Mullen

  • May 11, 2010
    10:28 am

    Hi Julie Anne, My little brother and his new wife had a very negative experience of Paris on their honemoon this past January, which is a total shame as the were really looking fowrard to it.As for the croque monsieur, that is one of my comfort blankets when I feel really down. AND, as good fortune would have it, I'm going to see Chiq at the end of this month. One more band to cross off the bucket list :Dp.s. I remember the race home after shopping to see the AVTAK video on Top of the Pops – my Dad almost threw me out of the car I complained so much 'cos we were running late. Happy days!

  • May 11, 2010
    12:43 pm

    Ok, ok, so Parisians are rude…..but then, so are many other nationalities on this planet. It's just that the French get picked on a bit more than others. I agree Jewels, I have found the French rude too but then again I have some beautiful friends who are French also. Believe me, Aussies can be down right rude too.When it comes down to it, we are all the same to some degree. I'm sure many out there have been rude themselves at some stage in their lives.All in all, live life and who cares. Just shrug it off and enjoy what's around.Aussie MumP.S. Love the recipe and photos. Oh….and living in the same building as Marlene Dietrich, now that is good a dinner conversation.

  • May 11, 2010
    3:56 pm

    "wow Jewels!! What a fun post! "EJ Shames

  • May 11, 2010
    4:06 pm

    The thing I dislike about the attitude is that it should be reserved for people who do not bother to TRY to speak their language, those that do are showing a sincere wish to immerse themselves in thier language and customs, and should be helped, not admonished. Meagan… They are just as delicious without the ham!

  • May 11, 2010
    9:32 pm

    just read your blog….thank U 4 sharing!my grlfriend Jessica had similar probs with Parisiennes treating her badly while she was studying abroad thru Brown ULaura Petersen

  • May 11, 2010
    9:33 pm

    Hi Laura…I'm sorry your friend did not have a good experience in Paris.I can't stress enough that my post was not meant to be about rude Parisians… the vast majority are lovely, kind people. I was merely painting a backdrop to the beginning of my story. I actually love Paris, and have many great friends there to this day.I hope your friend's experience ended positively, and that she too, has fond memories of one the world's most beautiful, interesting, and exciting cities.

  • May 11, 2010
    9:56 pm

    i just read a bit of your blog…its beautiful, you write wonderfully. i need to show my mom your recipes.Giorgi Centeno-Antinori

  • May 11, 2010
    9:59 pm

    So sweet Giorgi… thank you, and hope your mom makes some of the recipes for you (but they are easy enough, even for those that don't cook often, to follow – if you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen one day).

  • May 11, 2010
    11:37 pm

    Right, Jewels…I spoke very good French (or so my teacher always told me), and in other French speaking places, I had no problems, but in Paris, I found it discouraging that they acted like they couldn't understand me over some minor thing. That memory helps me to have grace for those visiting our country who don't speak our language well, but are trying. Had your Croque Monsieurs today….awesome…thanks!

  • May 12, 2010
    5:52 am

    you should write a book about your adventures… i wasnt really sure what i was reading at first…i thought maybe it was sort of a memoir or biography… until it ended, and i thought "aw no, is there more?"Giorgi Centeno-Antinori

  • May 12, 2010
    6:38 pm

    You have lived such an amazing life.Regina Goduto-Hershberger

  • May 13, 2010
    4:25 am

    yummmmmSusan Michals

  • May 13, 2010
    5:59 am

    I bet she is happier now – well, that's what I wish for her: happiness!Marcia Abud D

  • May 13, 2010
    6:02 am

    Jewels, your blog has quickly become one of my favorite treats when I need a study break. I am thirty-nine and in college (art school) for the first time. Not only is it a pleasure to read but it reminds me of why I am doing what I am doing. There is a line from a U2 song that I think you would appreaciate. I forget the name of the song but the line goes something like this.. "I'm not afraid to die, I'm not afraid to live, and when I'm flat on my back I hope to feel that I did…"I can't wait till your book comes out!!!Kelly McAllister Hulse

  • May 13, 2010
    6:02 am

    Thanks Regina, but Marcia is right… I wouldn't trade my life today for anything!Love that you like the blog so much Kelly! Art school is the bomb! When I took my daughter to look at schools it made me want to go back myself.

  • April 28, 2011
    3:52 pm

    FABULOUS recipe! Tres bien, mon cher!

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