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Experience The Max: Craig Claiborne (1920-2000)

Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love. — Craig Claiborne 

Claiborne brought an appreciation of fine and vernacular dining to the attention of countless Americans. Like Julia Child, he emerged as an unmistakable presence associated with the love of restaurants, cooking and all things culinary. Born and raised in the tiny Mississippi hamlet of Sunflower, Claiborne became the first man to edit the food pages at The New York Times in 1957, a position he held for the next 30 years. His love for food encompassed the plain home cuisine of his native state to the exotic dishes of India, China, France, and regions few had heard of. 

He also invented the modern restaurant review (the four-star system), celebrated (and sometimes despised) because of his unflinching candor. After indulging in an infamous $4,000 31-course meal in Paris the famous Chez Denis restaurant with fellow chef and editor Pierre Franey, he penned a scorching review pronouncing the cooking and service as mediocre at best. But he was always fair, believing that he held a responsibility to guide Americans as to where to spend hard-earned money.

An incisive writer and highly accomplished chef himself, Claiborne wrote thousands of columns and authored 26 books. He inspired countless aspiring chefs, including Jackson native Cat Cora.

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Craig Claiborne is one of the many stories nestled in the HOME Exhibit at The Max. In the innovative, hands-on kitchen, you can trace Mississippi’s culinary inspirations to their deepest roots. Discover some of the earliest influences of Mississippi’s now-famous culinary legends.

Photo provided by The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience (The Max)
Photo provided by The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience (The Max)

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