The TV chef and cookbook author who brought French cuisine into the mainstream, Julia Child, left behind an enormous legacy and a range of recipes to be passed down from generation to generation.
Born in Pasadena, Calif. in 1912, the culinary trailblazer tried different careers before taking up an interest in cooking at age 32. Beloved for her laid-back personality and unforgettable voice, Julia continues to serve as a source of inspiration. What's the story behind her voice and accent?
Julia Child's trademarks included her unusual voice, Mid-Atlantic accent, and unrestrained love of butter.
The oldest daughter of John McWilliams, a prominent land manager, and Julia Carolyn, the heiress to the Weston Paper Company, Julia Child was likely taught to speak the Mid-Atlantic accent while attending Katherine Branson School for Girls, Smith College, and Princeton University. While Julia's voice is frequently remarked upon, the story behind it remains unclear.
In 2012, PBS Digital Studios created an Auto-Tuned short video, "Julia Child Remixed: Keep on Cooking," in celebration of the 100th anniversary of her birthday. The video turns Julia's intros to various recipes like "hot chocolate truffles" and "sour cream cheese filling" into a catchy song. Viewers discretion advice: The song will get stuck in your head.
Julia Child traveled to Sri Lanka and China while working for the Office of Strategic Services.
Julia joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, in 1942. She worked directly with the lead of the organization, William 'Wild Bill' Donovan. In 1948, Julia and her husband, Paul Cushing Child, moved to Paris. Their time there turned out to be formative to Julia's career. While Julia loved Chinese food — she and Paul spent some time in Sri Lanka and China while on an OSS assignment — Julia's true expertise lay in French cooking methods.
Julia Child is best known for her quirky voice and excellent recipes, including the French onion soup.
Julia made her TV debut with The French Chef, a culinary show allowing her to revisit French culinary staples like French onion soup, bouillabaisse, and beef bourguignon while also establishing a strong connection with viewers. Her quirky personality, confident presentation skills, and unique voice quickly earned her comparisons to the likes of Lucille Ball. (Fun fact: the star of I Love Lucy was just one year older than Julia.)
Julia's casual, no-nonsense attitude made her a favorite among passionate chefs and cooking novices alike. Unlike other TV personalities, she was unafraid to own up to her mistakes — and she had no care for perfectionism.
As The A.V. Club reminds us, Julia failed to flip a large potato cake in Season 1, Episode 22 of The French Chef.
"You can pick it up when you’re alone in the kitchen. Who is going to see?" she told the camera. "You haven’t lost anything because you can always turn it into something else … We’ll pretend that this was supposed to be a baked potato dish."
'The Julia Child Challenge' and 'Julia' are two forthcoming programs honoring Julia Child's legacy.
March 2022 marks an exciting period for Julia Child devotees. The Julia Child Challenge, a new cooking show capturing the heated competition of eight chefs ready to make the most of her evergreen recipes, premieres on Food Network on March 14, 2022. Julia, an eight-episode drama created by Daniel Goldfarb and starring Sarah Lancashire and David Hyde Pierce, will arrive on HBO Max on March 31, 2022..