Childhood & Early Life
Born Julia Carolyn McWilliams, Julia Child was the eldest of the three children born to John McWilliams, Jr. and Julia Carolyn Weston. While her father was a famous land manager, her mother was an heiress of a paper company, owned by her maternal grandfather Byron Curtis Weston.
Young Child completed her formal education from various schools and institutions including the Westridge School, Polytechnic School and Katherine Branson School. It was during this time that he excelled as an athletic and played various sports including tennis, golf and basketball.
For further studies, she enrolled at the Smith College from where she graduated with a major in English in 1934.
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Attaining her academic qualifications, she moved to New York where she settled as a copywriter in the advertisement department of a swank and ritzy furnishing company, W. & J. Sloane
Three years later, she returned to California and took up the profile of a writer in various local publications. She even worked in the department of advertising for some of the firms. During this time, she volunteered work for the Junior League of Pasadena
Unable to enlist at the women army corps due to her tall stature, she instead applied to Office of Strategic Services. She was first recruited for the position of a typist but no sooner was promoted to the rank of a top secret researcher.
She then worked for a year with the Emergency Rescue Equipment Section at the OSS. In 1944, she was posted to Kandy, Ceylon in an important profile which included working with the registering and channelizing of highly classified communications for the OSS stations in Asia.
Two years later, she moved to Washington DC along with her husband, Paul Cushing Child. It was he who introduced her to fine cuisine, thanks to his love for sophisticate dining and taste.
In 1948, Paul was promoted to the rank of an exhibit officer with the United States Information Agency. The promotion led the couple to relocate to Paris. It was her first meal in Rouen that acted as a culinary revelation of sorts.
She soon enrolled herself to the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later took training under Max Bugnard and other master chefs. The love for cooking saw her join the women’s cooking club, where she first met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.
The trio started working together and initiated their informal school, L'�cole des trois gourmands. In the next decade, the trio researched various recipes, trying and testing before making them a culinary treat for all.
She indulged in translating the recipes from French to English. Unlike others, she gave a detailed analysis of the recipes to make them interesting and practical for people who read them.
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The trio came up with their first book, a massively detailed 726 pages work entitled, ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’. The book, published in 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf, gained a cult status amongst readers and received much critical acclaim. Its illustrated pages and attention to detail made it a bestseller. What’s more, the book made fine cuisine accessible to all.
After the success of the first publication, she wrote for various magazine articles and took up the post of a columnist for The Boston Globe newspaper.
It was during a book review show in 1962 that she first thought of having her own television show. Almost immediately, she worked on the idea and the following year, made an entry into the world of television with the show, ‘The French Chef’ on WGBH.
‘The French Chef’ was a major hit amongst the audience and became one of the most widely viewed shows. It ran for about ten years, winning significant and important awards during the runtime.
In 1971, she came up with her second cook book, ‘The French Chef Cook Book’, which was basically a written extension of the recipes that had featured in her show. She followed this up with the second volume of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ in collaborating with Simone Beck.
Following year, i.e. in 1972, The French Chef became the first television program to be captioned for the deaf.
She came up with her fourth book, ‘From Julia Child’s Kitchen’. The book was the first documented color series of ‘The French Chef’. Apart from providing interesting and easy recipes, it presented a compiled library of kitchen notes collected while shooting the show.
The rising popularity led to an increase in demand for more shows and books which eventually directed the release of various television programs including ‘Julia Child and Company’, ‘Julia Child and More Company’, ‘Dinner at Julia’s’ and so on.
In 1981, she founded The American Institute of Wine & Food, along with vintners Robert Mondavi and Richard Graff, amongst others. The main aim of the organization was to enhance the knowledge and understanding about the quality of wine and food.
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In 1989, she came up with her magnum opus, ‘The Way to Cook’. This was different from her other works as it not only was a book but even included an instructional video series of the recipes and cooking tips.
In the following decade, she came up with four brand new cookery shows, including ‘Cooking with Master Chefs’, ‘In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs’, ‘Baking with Julia’ and ‘Julia Child & Jacques Pepin’. What’s more, each of the shows was later converted into cookbooks of the same name.
In 2001, he moved to a retirement community and donated her house and workplace to Smith College. She also donated her kitchen, which was custom designed by her husband Paul, to the National Museum of American History.
Awards & Achievements
In 1965, she was presented with the Peabody Award for Personal Award for ‘The French Chef’.
In 1965, she received the Emmy Award for Achievements in Educational Television- Individuals for The French category in 1980, she was awarded the U.S. National Book Awards for Current Interest (hardcover) for Julia Child and More Company.
In 1996, she bagged the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Service Show Host for ‘In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs’
In the new millennium, she was conferred with the prestigious French Legion of Honour. Same year, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
She won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Service Show Host for ‘Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home’ in 2001. In 2003, she received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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She received honorary degrees from various universities including Harvard University, Johnson & Wales University, Smith College, Brown University and several other universities.
Personal Life & Legacy
It was while she was working with OSS as a communicator of the top secret documents between US government officials and intelligence officers that she met Paul Cushing Child, also an OSS employee.
The two tied the knot on September 1, 1946 in Lumberville, Pennsylvania. Eventually, they shifted base to Washington DC. The couple had no children
In 1994, her husband Paul passed away after staying in a nursing home for five years following a series of strokes in 1989.
In 1995, she established The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and Culinary Arts, a private charitable foundation to make grants to further her life's work. Initially set-up in Massachusetts, the foundation later moved to Santa Barbara, California, which serves as its headquarters. The foundation has been inactive since her death
She breathed her last on August 13, 2004 due to kidney failure at the retirement community, Casa Dorinda in Montecito, California just two days before her 92nd birthday.
United Kingdom paid tribute to the legendary cook by naming absolutely fabulous rose, which is a golden butter/gold floribunda one after her. It is today called the Julia Child Rose.