Julia Carolyn Child (née McWilliams, August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004) was an American chef and author or co-author of a number of cookbooks, most famously Mastering the Art of French Cooking in two volumes. She became a celebrity in the 1960s and beyond, and is the subject of many an Affectionate Parody, given her enthusiastic demeanor and her distinctively plummy voice. Child herself was aware of and appreciated the many parodies of her work - although she never stooped to self-parody she maintained a distinctly light-hearted attitude and approach to her subject which (naturally) endeared her to audiences.
Her PBS program The French Chef pioneered the genre of the Cooking Show. It was produced from 1963 to 1973, and still can be seen in reruns to the present day. Episodes are also available on YouTube and have streamed on Twitch.
Just as a warning, American chefs and cooking professionals hold Julia Child to a level of respect and admiration that borders on religious. It is safer for you to insult Fred Rogers on 4Chan than to disparage Julia Child in the hearing of a chef, especially if you are badmouthing her in his restaurant.
Works associated with Julia Child include:
- The French Chef: A pioneering Cooking Show produced by WGBH Boston from 1963 to 1973, which she hosted, and for which she and her crew won a Peabody Award in 1964 and an Emmy in 1966. Child continued to be associated with this program in particular long after it ceased production and she moved onto other projects for PBS.
- Julie & Julia: A 2009 combination fantasy and biopic directed by Nora Ephron, aligning Child's experiences in Europe while she attended the Cordon Bleu school and co-authored her first cookbook, and author Julie Powell's attempt to cook all 524 recipes in the book in one year. Child is played by Meryl Streep.
- Julia: A 2021 documentary chronicling Child's life.
- Julia: A 2022 series for HBO Max created by Daniel Goldfarb which can be viewed as a spiritual companion to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (which Goldfarb produces) - a period piece about a woman entering a new chapter of life and discovering the joys of creativity and performance with a little help from her friends and family. It is set during the early '60s, and charts the early days of the making of The French Chef at WGBH-TV in Boston, making it feel a lot like an unofficial sequel to Julie & Julia. Child is played by Sarah Lancashire.
- John "Melody Sheep" Boswell did a tribute video for Child in his own unmistakable style.
- One of Dan Aykroyd 's best-known SNL sketches is his impersonation of Julia. The skit is, itself, often parodied.
- Appears in the second episode of Season 5 of Epic Rap Battles of History against Gordon Ramsay.
- She appears in an episode of Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum, where she teaches Xavier about how you can do anything if you take it one step at a time.
Tropes associated with Julia Child's works include:
- Actually Pretty Funny: Child absolutely loved Dan Aykroyd's parody of her from Saturday Night Live, and even went so far as to record on video so she could show it to guests at parties.
- Adaptation Distillation/Adaptation Expansion: The French Chef was, essentially, an adaptation of her famous cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The distillation comes in that only those recipes within the book that were accessible to the intended viewer (the middle-class home cook without staff) were chosen; the expansion comes in that the television format and the 30-minute runtime allowed her to go into much more detail than a written recipe would.
- Catchphrase: "This is Julia Child. Bon appétit!"
- Cooking Show: The French Chef was one of the earliest examples of the genre, and quickly became a popular sensation since Child excelled at showing how high-quality food could be made easily at home.
- Crossover: Child once showed up on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to show the neighbors her recipe for Spaghetti.
- Food Porn: Given that her medium was the Cooking Show, the food and its presentation are the focus.
- French Cuisine Is Haughty: Zig-zagged. Child learned French cooking under expert chefs in Paris (at the Cordon Bleu) and she understood that 'French' is often synonymous with 'fancy', but her goal was to demystify the process and show that ordinary Americans could make French-quality food in their own kitchens. Most of her recipes are based more on French home cooking than the elaborate fare you'd get at a high-end restaurant, but on the other hand she also featured recipes for fancy meals such as pressed duck and lobster thermidor. She was also very fond of the In-N-Out burger chain, and was on record about being quite fond of McDonald's french fries... until they stopped frying them in beef tallow, at which point she swore them off. In addition, her favorite thing to eat was the incredibly simple and easy-to-prepare (and not particularly French) baked potato.
- Full-Name Basis: Always referred to herself onscreen as "Julia Child", never "Julia" nor "Mrs. Child". Averted after the fact - to this day, celebrity chefs and professional cooks refer to her simply as "Julia" in hushed, reverent tones.
- Hidden Depths: Most people remember Child as a cook — but she also worked for the OSS overseas during World War II, and was so praised her for skills at handling classified reports coming in from all over Asia that she became a top-secret researcher who worked directly for the organization's leader. Later, she invented the world's first shark repellent (the fish kept setting off naval minefields) while stationed in East Asia; the repellent was so successful that it's still used today.note Child received several military honors and awards for her work.
- Ivy League for Everyone: Julia and her mother Julia attended Smith College (which has a Julia Child Day featuring her recipes), her father attended Princeton, and her husband briefly attended Columbia.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Julia stood 6'2", and thus towered over most men. (This was a family trait; her sister Dorothy was even taller.) Though surviving photographs indicate her husband Paul was about average height for a man, she still stood almost a head taller than he. This is relevant to her works in that Paul built Julia a custom kitchen with countertops several inches higher than the standard so that she would not be constantly hunched over, and the sets on her shows were built the same.
- Lady Drunk: She was known for her love of liquor and never shied away from making jokes about it. In one famous quote, she remarked "I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food"; in another, when asked what her favorite wine was, she happily responded "gin!" Averted, however, in that she never imbibed on-camera, even though many people remember her consuming the wine she would pour with her meal at the end of each episode of The French Chef.
- The Scottish Trope: Margarine. Julia generally referred to it as "that other spread" and made no bones about how she deemed it vastly inferior to butter. Ironically, the French invented margarine.
- Supreme Chef: Child's goal was to make French food accessible to the amateur cook, but she couldn't have done that without her significant professional skills. Media portrayals of her emphasize this fact.
- Throw It In: Invoked deliberately. The show was filmed directly to videotape without interruptions, so if Julia made a mistake, they often just left it in. Julia explained that this helped humanize the process of cooking, showing that even an experienced professional can make a kitchen mistake like you do. She would often say "I'm glad that happened" and then show viewers how to fix it.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Count the recipes that include butter and cream. And served with white wine.
- Trope Codifier: She codified the tropes for Cooking Show and celebrity chef.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Child is sometimes mistaken for British, but was actually born in Pasadena. Like many upper-class Americans of her age, she was taught the Mid-Atlantic accent, a pseudo-British, almost theatrical way of speaking. Compare Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Vincent Price, or William Daniels.