One of the biggest icons in the culinary world was Julia Child. She was a talented cook, trailblazing author, and fabulous television personality.
While you can learn a lot about Julia Child’s life from films like “Julie and Julia” and television series like “Julia,” here is a peek into the fascinating life of one of America’s most beloved cooks.
Julia was born in California in 1912. Through high school and college, Julia was interested in sports and played while attending Smith College in Massachusetts. She majored in history and graduated from the school in 1934.
While Julia wanted to become a novelist, she briefly worked as a copywriter in New York City after graduation. Then, she became a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence Division Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II.
While Julia was posted in Sri Lanka by the OSS, she met the love of her life, Paul Child, a fellow OSS employee at the time. They had a wonderful love story and eventually moved to Paris, France, together after Paul was hired to be an exhibits officer there with the United States Information Agency.
Once in Paris, Julia’s eyes opened to the wonders of French cuisine. Wanting to learn more about French cooking, she excelled in advanced classes at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, graduating in 1951. She eventually met cooks Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle and joined them in their long mission to publish a French cookbook in English to make the cuisine more accessible to Americans.
The three of them also led a cooking school in Paris called “L’école des trois gourmandes.”
After a grueling writing and publication process, Julia’s infamous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1961. It was a revolutionary cookbook and still can be found in so many American kitchens today.
When it was published, Julia and Paul were living in Massachusetts, which is one of the reasons why that same year, she was asked to appear on the public broadcasting television station WGBH-TV in Boston. After giving a brief yet charming tutorial on how to cook a French omelette live, viewers quickly started asking for more Julia, inspiring her to push for her own iconic cooking show, “The French Chef.”
Julia’s show debuted as a pilot in 1962 but grew into a regularly programmed series in 1963. American viewers were in love with Julia’s unedited attitude, her ability to normalize making mistakes in the kitchen on camera, and her encouraging her audience to try new things. “The French Chef” became a massive success, and it ran for 10 years and won prestigious awards like Emmys.
After “The French Chef” ended, Julia appeared on several other television programs and continued to write books on cooking and her life experiences. She founded the non-profit organization, the American Institute of Wine & Food, in 1981. In 1989, she released “The Way To Cook,” which was an instructional cookbook paired with video tutorials.