"I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate." -- Julia Child
Julia Child (née McWilliams) (August 15, 1912 - August 13, 2004) was an American chef, author, and television personality. She is recognized for introducing French cuisine to the American public with her debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her subsequent television programs, notably The French Chef, which premiered in 1963.
"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.""I wouldn't keep him around long if I didn't feed him well.""In department stores, so much kitchen equipment is bought indiscriminately by people who just come in for men's underwear.""In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.""It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it.""Life itself is the proper binge."
Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California, the daughter of John McWilliams, Jr., a Princeton graduate and prominent land manager, and his wife, the former Julia Carolyn ("Caro") Weston, a paper-company heiress whose father, Byron Curtis Weston, served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. The eldest of three children, she had a brother, John III (1914—2002), and a sister, Dorothy Dean (1917—2006).
She attended Westridge School, Polytechnic School from fourth grade to ninth grade and then The Branson School in Ross, California, which was at the time a boarding school. At six feet, two inches (1.88 m) tall, Child played tennis, golf, and basketball as a child and continued to play sports while attending Smith College, where she graduated in 1934. In a 1999 video interview, Child reported that she majored in English at Smith. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3u1ljheBtY&feature=related A press release issued by Smith in 2004 states that her major was history.
Following her graduation from college, Child moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of upscale home-furnishing firm W. & J. Sloane. Returning to California in 1937, she spent the next four years writing for local publications and working in advertising.
Child joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) after finding that she was too tall to enlist in the Women's Army Corps or in the U.S. Navy through the WAVES.
Child began her OSS career as a typist at its headquarters in Washington, but because of her education and experience soon got a more responsible position as a top secret researcher working directly for the head of OSS, General William J. Donovan. Working as a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division, she typed ten thousand names on white note cards to keep track of officers. For a year, she worked at the OSS Emergency Rescue Equipment Section (ERES) in Washington, D.C. as a file clerk and then as assistant to developers of a shark repellent needed to ensure that sharks would not explode ordnance targeting German U-boats. In 1944 she was posted to Kandy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where her responsibilities included "registering, cataloging and channeling a great volume of highly classified communications" for the OSS's clandestine stations in Asia. She was later posted to China, where she received the Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service as head of the Registry of the OSS Secretariat.
For her service, Child received an award that cited her many virtues, including her "drive and inherent cheerfulness." She met Paul Cushing Child, also an OSS employee, while in Ceylon and the two were married September 1, 1946 in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, later moving to Washington, D.C. Paul Child, a New Jersey native who had lived in Paris as an artist and poet, was known for his sophisticated palate. He joined the United States Foreign Service and introduced his wife to fine cuisine. In 1948, they moved to Paris after the US State Department assigned Paul there as an exhibits officer with the United States Information Agency. The couple had no children.
Child repeatedly recalled her first meal in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to The New York Times as "an opening up of the soul and spirit for me." In Paris she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs. She joined the women's cooking club Cercle des Gourmettes; through the club she met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Beck proposed that Child work with them, to make the book appeal to Americans.
In 1951 Child, Beck, and Bertholle began to teach cooking to American women in Child's Paris kitchen, calling their informal school L'Ecole des Trois Gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers). For the next decade, as the Childs moved around Europe and finally to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three researched and repeatedly tested recipes. Child translated the French into English, making the recipes detailed, interesting, and practical.
In 1963, the Childs built a home near the Provence town of Plascassier in the hills above Cannes on property belonging to co-author Simone Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. The Childs named it La Pitchoune, a Provençal word meaning "the little one" but over time the property was often affectionately referred to simply as 'La Peetch'.
The three would-be authors initially signed a contract with publisher Houghton Mifflin, which later rejected the manuscript for seeming too much like an encyclopedia. Finally, when it was first published in 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf, the 734-page Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a best-seller and received critical acclaim that derived in part from the American interest in French culture in the early 1960s. Lauded for its helpful illustrations and precise attention to detail and for making fine cuisine accessible, the book is still in print and is considered a seminal culinary work. Following this success, Child wrote magazine articles and a regular column for The Boston Globe newspaper. She would go on to publish nearly twenty titles under her name and with others. Many though not all, were related to her television shows. Her last book was the autobiographical My Life in France, published posthumously in 2006 and written with her husband's nephew, Alex Prud'homme. The book recounts Child's life with her husband, Paul Child, in post-World War II France.
The French Chef and related books
A 1962 appearance on a book review show on the National Educational Television (NET) station of Boston, WGBH, led to the inception of her first television cooking show after viewers enjoyed her demonstration of how to cook an omelette. The French Chef had its debut on February 11, 1963, on WGBH and was immediately successful. The show ran nationally for ten years and won Peabody and Emmy Awards, including the first Emmy award for an educational program. Though she was not the first television cook, Child was the most widely seen. She attracted the broadest audience with her cheery enthusiasm, distinctively charming warbly voice, and non-patronizing and unaffected manner.
In 1972, The French Chef became the first television program to be captioned for the deaf, albeit in the preliminary technology of open captioning.
Child's second book, The French Chef Cookbook, was a collection of the recipes she had demonstrated on the show. It was soon followed in 1971 by Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two, again in collaboration with Simone Beck, but not with Louisette Bertholle, the relationship with whom ended acrimoniously. Child's fourth book, From Julia Child's Kitchen, was illustrated with her husband's photographs and documented the color series of The French Chef, as well as providing an extensive library of kitchen notes compiled by Child during the course of the show.
In 1981 she founded The American Institute of Wine & Food, with vintners Robert Mondavi and Richard Graff, and others, to "advance the understanding, appreciation and quality of wine and food," a pursuit she had already begun with her books and television appearances.
Later shows and books
In the 1970s and 1980s she was the star of numerous television programs, including Julia Child & Company and Dinner at Julia's; at the same time she also produced what she considered her magnum opus, a book and instructional video series collectively entitled The Way To Cook, which was published in 1989.
She starred in four more series in the 1990s that featured guest chefs: Cooking with Master Chefs,In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs,Baking With Julia, and Julia Child & Jacques Pépin Cooking at Home. She collaborated with Jacques Pépin many times for television programs and cookbooks. All of Child's books during this time stemmed from the television series of the same names.