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Julia Child

Cooking legend Julia Child introduced French cuisine to American cooks in 1963 with WGBH’s pioneering television series, The French Chef. She was passionate about food and she changed the way Americans cook and eat. WGBH is proud to look back at her accomplishments and how we helped to make her a household name. Explore the world of Julia Child here—from tributes to early programs to cooking tips and recipes. As Julia herself said, "Bon appétit!"

Celebrate Julia Child's birthday with this remix of our favorite Julia moments.

About Julia
An American in Paris

In 1963, a charismatic woman with a passion for French cuisine and an inimitable voice stepped in front of the cameras at WGBH and introduced Americans to the art of French cooking. More than a decade after her death, Julia Child continues to captivate the public's imagination.

She was born Julia McWilliams in Pasadena, California, on Aug. 15, 1912. She married her husband, Paul Child, in 1946. Paul joined the United States Information Agency and was assigned to the US Embassy in Paris in 1949.

While in Paris with her husband, Julia enrolled at le Cordon Bleu, where she attended French cooking classes. Along with two French friends, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, she co-wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published in 1961, which aimed to make French cooking accessible to Americans. The three women also ran a cooking school in Paris, L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes (the school of the three hearty eaters). That same year, the Childs returned to the US, settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Julia Child WGBH 2
Photograph by Paul Child. © Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
"Bon appétit!"

It was on a 1961 promotional tour for Mastering the Art of French Cooking that Julia made her first contact with public television, as a guest on a WGBH book review show called I’ve Been Reading. She arrived with a hot plate, giant whisk, and eggs and made an omelette on the set. Dozens of viewers wrote to WGBH, wanting to see more. WGBH writer/producer Russ Morash asked her to tape three pilot cooking shows, which she did in 1962. WGBH put The French Chef on the air on Feb. 11, 1963, and Julia Child became public television’s first and most enduring star. Audiences fell in love with her wavering voice, fondness for wine and butter, eagerness to hack away with a knife, and customary closing phrase, "Bon appétit." The series ran for 10 years.

Julia Child WGBH The French Chef
Photograph by Paul Child. © Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
A Culinary Pioneer

Among the other breakthroughs for which the series can be credited, it was on The French Chef that WGBH first introduced captions for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. (WGBH has built on that 1972 milestone with many other media access advances for the 36 million Americans with hearing or vision loss.)

Julia's subsequent cooking shows for public television, which include Julia Child & Company, Julia Child & More Company, Dinner at Julia’s, and Julia Child Cooking with Master Chefs, have been aired and repeated without interruption ever since. In 1998, at age 85, she returned to demonstrating cooking basics in her own kitchen with her final series, Julia Child & Jacques Pépin: Cooking at Home. PBS has also aired two programs about Julia: an American Masters biography and Julia Child Memories: Bon Appétit, a retrospective of some of the most memorable episodes of The French Chef.

Television insiders credit Julia with giving birth to the "how-to" genre and carving a path for a cadre of successful TV chefs—and indeed, an entire cable channel devoted to cooking.

Julia Child NCAM Closed Captioning
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Recipes and More
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