Child, Julia 1912–2004

views updated

Child, Julia 1912–2004

(Julia McWilliams Child)


Born August 15, 1912, in Pasadena, CA; died August 12, 2004, in Santa Barbara, CA; daughter of John (a farm consultant) and Carolyn McWilliams; married Paul Child (a U.S. Foreign Service officer, painter, and photographer), September 1, 1945 (died 1994). Education: Smith College, B.A., 1934. Politics: Democrat.


Chef and writer. W. & J. Sloane (department store), New York, NY, member of advertising department, 1939-40; U.S. Office of Strategic Services, civilian employee in Washington, DC, Ceylon, and China, 1941-45; WGBH-TV, Boston, MA, star of The French Chef, 1962-72, Julia Child and Company, 1978-79, Dinner at Julia's, 1983-84, Cooking with Master Chefs, 1992, In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs, 1995, and Baking with Julia, 1996. Appearances on the American Broadcasting Co. (ABC-TV) program Good Morning America, beginning 1979, and on Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, 1999-2000.


George Foster Peabody Award, 1964, and Emmy Award, 1966, both for television work; Order de Merite Agricole, 1967; National Book Award, 1980, for Julia Child and More Company; honorary degrees from Boston University, Bates College, and Smith College; inductee, Culinary Institute Hall of Fame, 1993; Emmy for Outstanding Service Show host, 1995-96; Ralph Lowell award, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 1998; TV Cooking Show award, James Beard Foundation; Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Service Show Host, 2000-01; French Legion of Honor, 2000.


(With Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle) Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), Volume I, illustrations by Sidonie Coryn, 1961, Volume II (with Simone Beck), 1970, revised edition, 1983, 40th anniversary edition, 2001.

The French Chef Cookbook, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1968, reprinted, 2002.

From Julia Child's Kitchen, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1975, photographs by Albie Walton, Random House (New York, NY), 1999.

(With E.S. Yntema) Julia Child and Company, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1978.

(With E.S. Yntema) Julia Child and More Company, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1979.

The Way to Cook (six one-hour cassettes with recipe booklets; includes Poultry, Meat, Vegetables, Soups, Salads, and Breads, Fish and Eggs, and First Courses and Desserts), Knopf Video Books (New York, NY), 1985.

The Way to Cook, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1989.

Cooking with Master Chefs, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1993.

(With N.V. Barr) In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1995.

(With E.S. Yntema) Julia's Delicious Little Dinners, photographs by James Scherer, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1998.

(With E.S. Yntema) Julia's Menu for Special Occasions, photographs by James Scherer, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Jacques Pepin) Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.

(With E.S. Yntema) Julia's Breakfasts, Lunches, and Suppers, photographs by James Scherer, 1999.

(With E.S. Yntema) Julia's Casual Dinners, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), photographs by James Scherer, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor, with Burton Wolf) An American Feast: A Celebration of Cooking on Public Television, Bay Books (San Francisco, CA), 1999.

(With David Nussbaum) Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Alex Prud'Homme) My Life in France (memoir), Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to House and Garden Cookbook, Modern Promotions (New York, NY), 1980. Author of column, "From Julia Child's Kitchen," for McCall's. Contributor to House and Garden, House Beautiful, and Boston Globe. Food editor, Parade magazine, 1982-86.


Julia Child was a chef and star of the Emmy Award-winning half-hour program The French Chef, which was seen on 104 public television stations across the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s. Because of the program's low budget, each episode was taped only once. If Child dropped an egg on the floor or the white sauce turned out lumpy, it was shown; nothing escaped the camera or viewers' eyes. This approach, filming the show as if it were live, had its advantages according to Child. "I would far prefer to have things happen as they naturally do," she observed in the introduction to The French Chef Cookbook, "such as the mousse refusing to leave the mold, the potatoes sticking to the skillet, the apple charlotte slowly collapsing. One of the secrets of cooking is to learn to correct something if you can, and bear with it if you cannot."

Besides being a television celebrity, Child is also famous for her cookbooks, including the classic volume one of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (written in collaboration with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle). More than twenty years later, according to Michael Demarest writing in Time, the volume "is still regarded as the definitive English-language work on classic French cuisine."

Child did more than write a cookbook; she was a catalyst of change in American society. In Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Have Shaped Our Times, Lynn Gilbert and Gaylen Moore noted that Child "launched the epicurean cooking craze of the 1960s and 1970s." By breaking down French cooking into a set of easy-to-follow rules and adapting traditional recipes to include ingredients readily available to American homemakers, Child took the mystery out of fine dining.

Child's success as a cook came only after a long apprenticeship. She didn't start cooking until rather late in life—she was over thirty—and didn't even taste French cuisine until several years later when her husband, who was in the diplomatic service, was reassigned to Paris. "After one taste of French food … after our very first meal in France, at Rouen … I was hooked," Child recalled in Particular Passions. "I'd never eaten like that before, I didn't know such food existed. The wonderful attention paid to each detail of the meal was incredible to me. I'd never really drunk good wine before, and knew nothing at all about it. It was simply a whole new life experience."

This delightful new experience prompted Child to enroll in a six-month course at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. About the same time she was finishing the course, she met her two future collaborators, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, two French women who were working on a cookbook aimed at American readers. All three belonged to a women's gastronomic club, Le Cercle des Gourmettes. The club complemented Child's Cordon Bleu classes by providing opportunities to discuss and debate French attitudes toward food and cooking with fellow amateur cooks. Soon, Child, Beck, and Bertholle decided to start a cooking school for Americans, L'Ecole des Trois Gourmandes, and they began giving cooking lessons in the Childs' apartment. They charged five dollars a class.

When the American collaborator who had been working with Beck and Bertholle had to abandon the cookbook project, Child was asked to take her place. In Particular Passions, Child remembered her decision to accept their offer: "I was delighted, because I really wanted to get in on the act. I had found that most of the cookbooks I read didn't give enough detail, and I thought we could really do something to explain French cooking to America. So we started in, and it took us nine years to write the first draft." Child continued: "Our first submission, nine hundred pages on French sauces and French poultry, was roundly rejected. It went into the most infinite detail on every aspect; it was really an academic treatise which was, as our first editor pointed out, utterly unpublishable."

In 1958 the women finally finished rewriting the book, but it was again rejected by their publisher. Knopf, however, decided to publish the book and it became a best seller. The final product, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is a detailed two-volume catalog of all Child and her colleagues were able to learn about French cooking, and the result of more than a decade of experimentation. Their recipe for French bread, for example, took nearly two years to perfect; developing a suitable technique for making French puff pastry took even longer.

In the introduction to From Julia Child's Kitchen, she offers the following advice to those who might also be interested in cooking, either professionally or as a hobby: "Be a fearless cook! Try out new ideas and new recipes, but always buy the freshest and finest ingredients, whatever they may be. Furnish your kitchen with the most solid and workmanlike equipment you can find. Keep your knives ever sharp and—toujours bon appetit!"

As the host of eight television cooking series, Child remained a tireless writer of cookbooks, continuing to work through her eighties. She finally dismantled her kitchen in 2001 and moved west again, to California. The author of a score of books and cooking videos; her own personal favorite is From Julia Child's Kitchen.

Beginning with The Way to Cook, Child began to promote more time-efficient recipes and also to focus on the strengths of the gastronomic resources available in America. The Way to Cook, a collection of more than eight hundred recipes, is "elementary enough for anyone who wants a perfect poached egg, yet challenging enough for cooks eager to whip up a fillet of trout into a mousse," wrote Kristin McMurran in People magazine. Reviewing In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs, a spin-off from a television production, Booklist reviewer Kathy Broderick noted that Child "has outdone herself here, and all cookery collections will need her latest effort." Teaming up with chef Jacques Pepin, Child brought out Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home in 1999, once again as a supplement to a television series of the same name. Booklist reviewer Mark Knoblauch commented that "Child's practical intuition tempers Pepin's intellectual academic approach," but both "focus on instruction, not on showmanship, demonstrating their seriousness of purpose without any pedantry." Also, in collaboration with E.S. Yntema, Child adapts recipes featured in her earlier cookbooks in a series of books that deal with menu planning. In Julia's Delicious Little Dinners and Julia's Menus for Special Occasions, for example, she takes the reader through planning and cooking six different dinners for a party of six. And in Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking, she revolutionized the way America eats by providing essential recipes and techniques from her many decades of cooking. Library Journal reviewer Judith Sutton felt that appearances could be deceiving with Child's book of little more than one hundred pages. "In fact," Sutton wrote, "it is packed with more information than many cookbooks three times its size."

Child always remained humble about her achievements, one of which was a National Book Award in 1980 for Julia Child and More Company. "Celebrity has its uses," she told Mike Sager in Esquire. "I can always get a seat in any restaurant." Child also noted that a "cookbook is only as good as its poorest recipe."

Child's memoir, My Life in France, which she wrote with Alex Prud'Homme, was published posthumously two years after her death in 2004. The book primarily focuses on Child's time living in France and her experiences learning how to cook there. The author recalls how, after arriving in France in 1948 as a new bride who could not cook, she set out to become an American master of French cuisine. The authors include detailed descriptions of the various foods and markets that inspired Child. They also write of her loving partnership with her husband. "What My Life in France provides is the back story and the outtakes, the personalities and the adventures that help explain both the cookbook and the woman behind it," wrote William Grimes in the New York Times. Grimes went on to comment: "It is always a pleasure to see France through a fresh pair of eyes. Child savored every sight, sound, taste and smell of this exotic new world." Alan Riding, writing in the New York Times Book Review, noted: "On one level, it's the story of how a ‘6-foot-2-inch, 36-year-old, rather loud and unserious Californian’—her words—discovered the fullness of life in France. On another, it recounts the making of ‘Julia Child,’ America's grande dame of French cooking. Inevitably, the stories overlap." Other reviewers also praised the book. For example, Joanne Weintraub, writing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, commented that the author "was a genius indeed … not just in the kitchen or in front of the camera, but, as this memoir clearly shows, in mastering the art of living."



American Women Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.

Child, Julia, The French Chef Cookbook, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1968.

Child, Julia, From Julia Child's Kitchen, Alfred E. Knopf (New York, NY), 1975.

Fitch, Noel Riley, Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.

Gilbert, Lynn, and Gaylen Moore, Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Have Shaped Our Times, C.N. Potter (New York, NY), 1981.

Greenspan, Dorie, Baking with Julia: Based on the PBS Series Hosted by Julia Child, Morrow (New York, NY), 1996.

Newsmakers 1999, Issue 4, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Booklist, April 15, 1995, Kathy Broderick, review of In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs, p. 1450; August, 1999, Mark Knoblauch, review of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, p. 1980; March 1, 2006, Mark Knoblauch, review of My Life in France, p. 42.

Broadcasting & Cable, November 12, 2001, "Wild about Child," p. 40.

Business Week Online, August 16, 2004, "A Tribute to Julia Child; A Recollection of the TV Chef Who Remade American Tastes, plus a Thanksgiving, 2000, Chat with the Feisty Queen of the kitchen.

California Bookwatch, August, 2006, review of My Life in France.

Diabetes Forecast, August, 2000, "An Interview with Julia Child," p. 56.

Economist, August 28, 2004, "Julia Child," p. 78.

Entertainment Weekly, April 7, 2006, Jennifer Reese, review of My Life in France, p. 64.

Esquire, June 1, 2000, Mike Sager, "What I've Learned: Julia Child," p. 120.

Food Management, November, 2006, Joanna Lefebvre, "Julia Child: The French Chef," p. 72.

Footwear News, September 30, 2002, Thyra Porter, "Bon Appetit," p. 12, Thyra Porter, "Child: The Chefs' Chef," p. 14, Jennifer Quail, "Creating a Recipe for an Industry," p. 13, and Jennifer Quail, "Julia Makes American History," p. 16.

Gourmet Retailer, March, 2001, "An Interview with Julia Child: The Culinary World's First Lady," p. 68.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2006, review of My Life in France, p. 168.

Library Journal, November 15, 2000, Judith Sutton, review of Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking, p. 91; December 1, 2002, Michael Rogers, review of The French Chef Cookbook, p. 186.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 3, 2006, Joanne Weintraub, "Julia Child in France, a Delicious Memoir."

Nation's Restaurant News, May 23, 2005, "15th Beard Awards Gala Honors Julia Child, Other Industry Greats," p. 38.

Newsweek, May 27, 1991, Mark Starr, "Eat, Drink and Be Sensible: Is Life Worth Living without a Bit of Butter?" (interview with author), p. 52; April 3, 2006, Raina Kelley, "Food: Books That Really Cook," p. 65.

New York Times, April 8, 2006, William Grimes, "Back When Cuisine Was French for Scary," p. 9.

New York Times Book Review, May 28, 2006, Alan Riding, review of My Life in France, p. 8.

Nutrition Today, July, 2004, Susan Albert, "Julia Child at 91 Comments on American Culinary Culture," p. 154.

People, October 17, 1983, "Dinner at Julia's," p. 9; December 11, 1989, Kristin McMurran, review of The Way to Cook, p. 43; December 9, 1996, Michelle Green, review of Baking with Julia, p. 57; June 7, 1999, Karen Grigsby Bates, "Slice of History," pp. 169-170; May 15, 2006, Kim Hubbard, review of My Life in France, p. 57.

Prepared Foods, September 1, 2004, "A Chat with Julia Child: First Appearing in 1963 in the Television Series the French Chef, Julia Child May Be the Most Celebrated of Celebrity Chefs. Here, Child Gives Her Last Interview," p. 41.

Publishers Weekly, November 4, 1996, review of Baking with Julia, p. 73; July 15, 2002, Robert Dhalin, "90, but Still a Child," p. 44; February 13, 2006, review of My Life in France, p. 78.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2006, review of My Life in France.

Restaurant Business, August, 1998, Michael Adams, "Still Cookin'," p. 38.

Shape, August, 2006, Gabrielle Gayagoy, "Experience Global Cuisine without the Added Calories!" p. 30.

Smithsonian, February, 2002, Margery Sellinger, "Julia's Kitchen: … Sink and All," p. 36.

Spokesman-Review, April 5, 2006, review of My Life in France.

Time, April 18, 1983, Michael Demarest, "Thoroughly American Julia," profile of author, p. 78; May 15, 2000, Ellin Martens, "People," profile of author, p. 100; May 29, 2006, Lev Grossman, review of My Life in France, p. 71.

Time International, December 4, 2006, Don Morrison, review of My Life in France, p. 52.

Washington Post Book World, August 22, 1982, review of From Julia Child's Kitchen, p. 10.


Global Gourmet, (June 4, 2007), profiles of author.

Internet Movie Database, (June 3, 2007), information on author's film and television work.



Akron Beacon Journal, August 7, 2006, "Julia Child's Charm Lives On.

Capper's, August 31, 2004.

Chicago Tribune, August 14, 2004, section 1, pp. 1, 6.

Daily Variety, August 16, 2004, "TV's ‘French Chef,’ 91, Brought Fine Dining Home."

Detroit Free Press, August 17, 2004, "Julia Child Spiced Up Everyday Meals for Millions."

Economist, August 28, 2004, "Julia Child."

Entertainment Weekly, December 31, 2004, "Julia Child: Aug. 15, 1912-Aug. 13, 2004."

Farm Journal, September, 2004, "Mother of Moderation."

Gourmet Retailer, October, 2004, "Grande Dame of Cooking, Julia Child, Dies."

Hollywood Reporter, August 16, 2004, "Julia Child, TV Champion of Exquisite Cuisine, Dies: ‘French Chef,’ 91, Was Folk Hero." December 30, 2004, "A Dream of Absent Friends."

Los Angeles Magazine, October 1, 2004, "Julia Child: 1912-2004."

Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2004, pp. A1, A18, A19.

Nation's Restaurant News, August 23, 2004, "Culinarians Hail Child as Grande Dame of Food World: Icon Helped Make French Fare More Accessible to Many."

National Review, September 13, 2004, "How Small, of All that Human Hearts Endure, / That Part which Laws or Kings Can Cause or Cure!"

New York Times, August 14, 2004, pp. A1, A12; August 20, 2004, "Mastering the Art of Julia Child."

Newsweek, August 23, 2004, "A Master of the Art of Living; Julia Child, 1912-2004."

Newsweek International, December 27, 2004, "Last Exits; From a Grizzled Guerrilla to a Cold Warrior, from a Beloved Singer to a Feared Bandit, in One Momentous Year."

Nutrition Today, September, 2004, "Julia Child."

People, August 30, 2004, "Julia Child: Crying ‘Bon Appetit!’ She Led a French Revolution in the Kitchen."

PR Newswire, August 18, 2004, "The American Institute of Wine & Food Celebrates the Life of Co-Founder Julia Child;" August 20, 2004, "Julia Child: Legendary Student of Le Cordon Bleu."

Restaurant Business, September 15, 2004, "Paying Tribute to Child."

TelevisionWeek, August 16, 2004, "TV Food Pioneer Julia Child Dies; Host of ‘French Chef,’ Other Cooking Programs, Was 91."

Time, August 23, 2004, "Living through Better Cooking: A Revolutionary Who Fought for Spontaneity over Correctness: Julia Child, 1912-2004"; December 27, 2004, "One Last Goodbye."

Time International, August 23, 2004, "Milestones."

Times (London, England), August 16, 2004, p. 24.

Variety, August 23, 2004, "America's Own French Chef."

Washington Post, August 14, 2004, pp. A1, A10.