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The Remarkable Story of Julia Child

Julia Child is famous for bringing French cuisine to the American public and she was the one who took on this mission for more than fifty years through books and TV shows.

What is truly remarkable about Julia’s story is the fact that her love for cooking wasn’t born in her childhood years and, unlike most famous chefs, she didn’t start her apprenticeship early on. In fact, she didn’t really know how to cook until she got married, when she was 34, and it wasn’t until she was 37 and got to France that she actually started learning how to cook. She got to Paris by chance, thanks to her husband’s job, Paul Child, but as soon as she started taking classes at the Cordon Bleu she fell in love forever with cooking and French cuisine.

After that, also by chance, after “teaching” a few cooking lessons to some friends visiting from California, she started organizing her own cooking lessons. And in 1951 she was persuaded to be the co-author of a book, starting from the idea that the American market needed an actual guide on French cooking, since at that time there were only available books that resembled more to plain recipe collections. It’s just that Julia strongly believed that people needed precise and detailed instructions about every step of the process, about how the dishes should look every step of the way and, in general, elaborate explanations for every technique. It’s almost no wonder that, having this in mind, it took 10 years to finalize this project and it was truly a decade of constant work. Also, it’s no wonder that one of the recipes, the one for French bread in the second volume of the epic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, ended up being twenty two pages long.

But the remarkable story of Julia Child doesn’t end here. On the contrary! It’s only just beginning and the starting point is actually something that most people would have considered a definite ending. It so happened that Julia’s style in writing was really hard to read, so the first publishing house that she talked to refused to print the book. But she didn’t give up, she re-wrote parts of it and in the fall of 1961 she published the first volume of the book that would end up in the history pages. It was extremely well received both by public and critics and it was considered, almost unanimously, revolutionary.

Well, at this point she was fifty years old, but it was only a couple of months after the book was printed, so Julia Child was promoting it intensely. But just as playful as her cooking career began she also started her TV path. She simply thought it was a good idea to bring along a bowl and a whisk to a TV show at a Boston local TV station, just to show people how to handle egg whites. But this was loved by the audience, so the station decided to fund a pilot for a cooking show with her.

Her TV career started off quite modestly, in a studio put together in the basement of a building that at that time was serving as temporary headquarters for WGBH. The episodes were almost half an hour long, but they were often filmed in one piece in order to reduce production costs. And not being able to edit meant that all of the unpredictable things that might occur (and they do occur in the kitchen!) had to be handled quite spontaneously. However, it just might be that it was in fact her natural way of handling the unpredictable that made her so loved by the audience. All we know is that her show, The French Chef, was filmed until 1973 and this meant 10 seasons and 201 episodes. The rest is history, history written in almost 20 books, recorded in 8 DVDs and broadcasted in other 13 TV shows.

Julia Child died in 2004, when she was almost 92 and she left behind a wonderful career and a great legacy. But we don’t want to end this without showing you one of her first episodes on the show that turned her into such a loved and popular icon:

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