Brenda Brown

This column is the second in a series about tasty food and the cooks and chefs who feature old fashioned cooking and new and interesting food products and dishes on television shows and for movies.  

In the first column I discussed James Beard and the prestigious awards presented in his name and by his foundation; one chef who won countless James Beard awards and numerous other prestigious honors plus countless nominations was Julia Child.

People who follow foodie shows will recognize her as one of the most famous chefs to ever be featured in media but there is much more to her story than being a television chef

She led an amazingly interesting life outside the food circles.

Julia McWilliams Child (1912-2004) was born in Pasadena, Calif. into a wealthy family. Her father, a Princeton graduate, was a prominent land manager and her mother was a paper-company heiress. Her maternal grandfather was the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. Julia was raised in an affluent household with a professional cook so she never learned about food preparation as a youngster.

Julia attended several preparatory schools in California and then college in Massachusetts where she played several sports. She was more than 6 feet tall so she played tennis, golf and basketball. After graduating from college with a master’s degree in history, she moved to New York and accepted a position as a copywriter for W&J Sloane.

When Julia was declined for service in the military because of her height she joined the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) and was quickly promoted several times, ending up as a top-secret researcher for Gen. William J. Donovan. She transferred from Washington, D.C. to Asia and then to China where she met and soon married Paul Cushing Child, an artist and poet who formally lived in Paris and was known for his sophisticated palate.

Paul Child changed Julia’s life when he introduced her to fine cuisine.   

In 1948, Paul joined the Foreign Service and the couple moved to Paris where Julia discovered her love of excellent food. When she enrolled in her first class at Le Cordon Bleu in 1949, she was the only female. 

Julia went on to be the first woman in the culinary world to do several things, including being the first female to be inducted in 1993, into the Culinary Institute of America’s Hall of Fame.

Julia Child is recognized for bringing French cuisine to the attention of the American viewing public by authoring “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” 

The first time Julia cooked on television was when she was promoting her earliest book.  In 1963 she premiered a television program on a Boston channel called “The French Chef” which featured her making an omelet.

The kitchen that was featured in her television shows was such an icon that it was duplicated at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The green cabinets were recreated where many of her personal kitchen items are on display.

 

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