How Julia Child Inspired Marcus Samuelsson’s Love Of Cooking
by MEGHAN SMITH
On the latest episode of You & Julia, we sat down with Chef Marcus Samuelsson, host of PBS's No Passport Required, to talk about Julia Child's role in educating American chefs and home cooks, and how she paved the way for his love of cooking and exploring new cultures.
On coming to America and discovering Julia Child:
Marcus: I didn't grow up here so I didn't grow up with American television. But coming to America, I just knew — there was the voice, her height, her passion for food, her curiosity about it. [The French Chef] was completely game-changing, not just for recipes, but for the culture — it changed how America eats and how it dares to cook at home.
How she inspired chefs to embrace new techniques:
Marcus: She has inspired so many different people in terms of food, and not just chefs. Really, America. She taught America about something very difficult — French technique. These were foreign terms for America at the time, and she worked to make it all accessible.
We learned, maybe for the first time, how to roast a perfect chicken from Julia; we learned how to make a milk bread from Julia. And she did it in a matter-of-fact way that wasn't a yelling, screaming chef. This was actually a person, very often in a beautiful blouse with all the jewelry. My favorite moment is when she dropped the chicken — because nobody drops a chicken the way Julia drops a chicken — just brush it off, moves forward and goes on. It's perfect.
On how The French Chef paved the way for his show, No Passport Required, and other PBS food shows:
Marcus: You've got to respect the house that Julia built, first of all. Our show wouldn't be around if it wasn’t for Julia Child, and all of the work that [she and other chefs] have done before.
And for me there's a level of fun, but also a level of wanting to do good work. Because there is a history of not only great storytelling but also great teaching. And our curiosity [on No Passport Required] is really what might open up a culture that is not very often on TV. I get that feedback often, whether it's the Armenian community or Nigerian community — people saying, "thank you for putting us on TV and allowing us to tell our story." And that for me is when the work really matters.
This idea about where food sits today as part of pop culture — they [Julia and other PBS chefs] built that. They traveled and built the vocabulary and understanding that food matters, and that food was important. That hadn't been done before.
Learn more about the life and legacy of Julia Child here.