History of Julia Child
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Born Julia McWilliams on August 15, 1912, in
Pasadena, California she was the eldest of three
children. Julia went to the Katherine Branson School
for Girls in San Francisco where she was soon the
tallest in her class at a towering 6ft 2 inches.
After graduating from Smith College, Massachusetts
in 1930 she moved to New York and worked in the
advertising department of a home furnishing company.
In 1941 Julia moved to Washington, D.C., where she
worked as a research assistant for the Office of
Strategic Services (OSS) intelligence agency. After
some time in Ceylon having played a key role in the
communication of top secret documents between U.S.
government officials and their intelligence
officers, in 1945, she was sent to China, where she
met Paul Child a fellow worker with the OSS who
introduced her to fine dining. At the
end of World War II, they returned to America and
In 1948, the couple moved to Paris, France as Paul
was assigned to the U.S. Information Service at the
American Embassy in Paris. Whilst there, Julia was
taken with the French cuisine and shortly after
their arrival, attended the world-famous Cordon Bleu
cooking school. During the six-month course which
included private lessons with master chef Max
Bugnard, she met fellow Cordon Bleu students Simone
Beck and Louisette Bertholle with whom she
subsequently formed the cooking school L'Ecole de
Trois Gourmandes (The School of the Three
The three women set upon the task of writing a
two-volume cookbook about French cuisine in English,
aimed at American housewives who didn't have
servants to cook for them and their families. After
some rejections, the book, Mastering the Art of
French Cooking, was finally published in
the USA in 1961 after Julia and her husband had
returned to Cambridge Massachusetts, and was
immediately considered a ground-breaking work.
Having promoted the book on the Boston public
broadcasting station she prepared an omelette on
air. The public immediately took her to their
hearts and were so enthralled, that she was
invited to make her own cookery series in 1962
called The French Chef. The series was soon syndicated
to 96 stations throughout America, making her a
household name throughout the country synonymous
with fine food and whilst she wasn't the first tv
cook, she was certainly the most widely watched and
became renowned for her cheerful enthusiasm, humour
and straight-forward unaffected manner.
In 1964 Julia
received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award
followed by an Emmy Award in 1966 as well as being
featured on the cover of Time Magazine with
the heading, "Our Lady of the Ladle."
In 1972, The French Chef became the first
television program to have sub-titles for the deaf.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Julia appeared
regularly on TV including the TV programs Julia
Child and Company (1978), Julia Child and More
Company (1980), and Dinner at Julia's (1983), as
well as writing more bestselling cookbooks that
covered every aspect of culinary knowledge. 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," In 1993,
Julia was the first woman inducted into the Culinary
Institute Hall of Fame.
In November 2000, following a 40-year career,
Julia received France's highest honour: the Legion
d'Honneur. In August 2002, the Smithsonian's
National Museum of American History unveiled an
exhibit featuring the kitchen where she filmed three
of her popular cooking shows complete with raised
counters specially designed by her husband to accommodate her height.
In 2002, she was the inspiration for a blog written
by Julie Powell called "The Julie/Julia Project,"
which formed the basis of Powell's 2005 bestselling
book, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1
Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Julia is reported to
have been unimpressed by Powell's blog, believing
the project to be not serious. When
interviewed Child's editor, Judith Jones, said
"Flinging around four-letter words when cooking
isnít attractive, to me or Julia. She didnít want to
endorse it. What came through on the blog was
somebody who was doing it almost for the sake of a
stunt. She would never really describe the end
results, how delicious it was, and what she
Julia died of kidney failure in August 2004 aged 91.
After her death her last book, the autobiography
My Life in France, was published and also became
a best seller. Also, in 2009, a film was released
based on the book entitled
Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep as Julia. Streep won the Golden Globe Award for Best
Actress, and received an Academy Award nomination.
The release of the film saw yet another surge in
Julian Child's popularity.
To read more about the film see
Julie & Julia.
Julia will be remembered for introducing classic
French cuisine and culinary techniques to the
mainstream America via her cookbooks and television