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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 got married.

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 Gourmands). 


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 learned."


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 programs.

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