– Julia Child
As BBB’s Centennial moves along, we continue to celebrate other great members of the “century club.” Today is the 100th birthday of Julia Child, who changed the face of cooking in America through her best-selling cookbooks and popular television shows.
Child grew up wealthy and privileged in a California home where servants did the cooking. Although she always loved to eat, she didn’t get interested in cooking until 1948 when she moved to Paris for her husband’s work. Up until then, she had dabbled in athletics (she was 6’2″ tall and adventurous), advertising (she was fired) and writing (none of her early works – mostly short plays and articles submitted to New Yorker – were published).
But once she lived in France, she became enamored of French cooking and enrolled in the world-famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. Later, she and two other Cordon Bleu graduates formed L’Ecole de Trois Gourmandes (the School of the Three Gourmands). They collaborated on a two-volume cookbook, which was rejected by its original publisher due to its fantastic length. It was eventually released in 1961 as Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and it became a bestseller for five straight years. It is still a standard today.
While publicizing her book in Boston, where she then lived, her good humor and warm personality enchanted public television audiences. She was invited to create her own cooking show, for which she was originally paid $50 per episode. The French Chef became an award-winning hit, and it made her celebrity while changing the way Americans cooked and ate. Later she appeared regularly on ABC’s Good Morning, America. She had several other television shows throughout the years, and published numerous cookbooks.
Toward the end of her life, the honors piled up. In 1993, she became the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame. In 2000, she received France’s highest honor, the Legion D’Honneur. In 2002, the Smithsonian enshrined her Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen (scene of her popular television shows) as a permanent exhibit at the National Museum of American History. She worked until her death in 2004, just two days shy of her 92nd birthday. Her autobiography, My Life in France, was published posthumously. In 2009, she was the subject of a popular film, Julie & Julia, directed by Nora Ephron and starring Meryl Strep as the master chef
Information for this article from Biography. Photo credit from PBS. Click here for a short film about Julia Child’s life.