Julia enrolls in the famed Parisian cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu. After a false start in a “housewife” level class, and deemed unqualified for a six-week haute cuisine course for experts, she is placed in a yearlong program for professional restaurateurs with eleven former GIs. Her instructor and mentor is chef Max Bugnard, who had worked with Auguste Escoffier in London. Under his tutelage, Julia thrives.
Julia officially graduates from Le Cordon Bleu, having failed her first exam in 1950; pursuing her dream of making a career out of cooking (a dream she described as “a bit sketchy on the details”) meant re-taking the exam, which she did in April 1951. When Julia eventually received her diploma from the school, it was backdated to March 15, 1951.
Julia is introduced to two French women, Simone (Simca) Beck and Louisette Bertholle, who are working together on a cookbook about French cooking for Americans and seeking an American collaborator. Soon after their meeting, the three women open a cooking school, L’Ecole des Trois Gourmandes (charging $5 per lesson), and begin working together on their book.
With the help of friend Avis DeVoto – a well-connected former cookbook editor at Houghton Mifflin – Julia and her co-authors submit their 850-page manuscript, the result of seven years of collaboration, and their concept of multiple volumes to Houghton Mifflin, who find it to be too long and difficult to understand. After a major revision and a reduction to 684 pages, Houghton Mifflin again rejects the book. The manuscript eventually lands on the desk of Judith Jones, a young editor at Alfred A. Knopf, who strongly advocates taking a chance on the book. This marks the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration.
Deciding to return to their native land, family and friends, Paul retires from public service. Julia and Paul settle into 103 Irving Street in Cambridge, MA, where Julia lived until she moved permanently to Montecito, CA in 2001. One of their first improvements is to redo the kitchen, which Paul designs.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking is named a Book-of-the-Month Club Selection; 12,000 copies are distributed. Enthusiasm for the book has continued through the years – approximately 1,600,000 copies have been printed to date. In September 2009, following the release of Sony Pictures’ Julie & Julia, over 300,000 copies are sold in one month alone. The e-book edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is released in October, 2011.
February 11 – Julia’s interview promoting Mastering on the TV show “I’ve Been Reading” – produced by Boston’s public television station WGBH – launches her TV career. Having arrived with eggs, a whisk, and a copper bowl, Julia beats some egg whites “to enliven the talk.” Twenty-seven viewers write to the station, wanting to see more. The station produced three pilots, and then launched into production of The French Chef, which aired locally in 1962. The show debuted nationally in February, 1963 and aired through July 1966 (when it went into re-runs through September 1970).
Having teamed up with director/co-producer Russ Morash at WGBH, Julia wins the George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished achievement in television for The French Chef. Over the course of her career, Julia filmed more than 350 episodes of TV.
About The French Chef TV series, excerpted from The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child.
Christmas 1965 marks Julia and Paul’s first visit to their home in Provence, built on property belonging to Simca and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. They call it “La Pitchoune,” a Provencal word meaning the “little one.” Soon it affectionately becomes referred to as “La Peetch.” Julia would keep the house until 1992.
Julia wins a Primetime Emmy® Award for “Achievement in Educational Television” for The French Chef, becoming the first educational television personality ever to receive an Emmy in open competition.
Julia is on the cover of Time magazine, which dubs her “Our Lady of the Ladle.” The feature story describes Julia as the 54-year old, 6-ft.-2-inch tall star of The French Chef, whose “viewers on 104 educational TV stations across the U.S. watch her every move, forgive her every gaffe, and in a word, adore her. Manhattan matrons refuse to dine out the night she is on. When Washington D.C.’s WETA interrupted her program to carry Lyndon Johnson live, the station’s switchboard was jammed for an hour.”
Julia is awarded L’Ordre du Mérite Agricole. Established in 1883, the French National Order of Agricultural Merit is presented to individuals for services to agriculture by France’s Ministère de l’Agriculture.
Julia’s second book, The French Chef Cookbook, a compilation of the recipes from 119 programs of the first TV series, is published. The recipes appear in the order in which the shows were produced, beginning with the fourteenth show. “This is because the first thirteen shows no longer exist,” Julia explains in the book’s introduction. “When we started, The French Chef was purely a local New England program, and before WGBH-TV realized duplicates were needed to serve other educational stations throughout the country the first thirteen tapes had worn out…”
With Julia complaining that “I need at least five more years to get this book right,” editor Judith Jones holds firm to the March deadline for the manuscript of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two. Co-authored with Simone Beck, it is published in October.
A new The French Chef series debuts in color. The first season is described as “a tour of the French Classics, a refresher course for experienced cooks and a jet-assist take off for beginners.” The theme for the second season is “The French Chef Faces Life” – Julia shows viewers how to cope with situations that reflect the “demands of society,” such as family and getting kids involved in cooking, unexpected company, or a three-course sit-down dinner. In total, The French Chef series would span approximately 200 episodes.
Having noticed slight chest pains for several years, Paul is diagnosed as having blocked blood vessels. He undergoes a bypass, then a relatively new procedure that, perhaps from oxygen deprivation, leaves him with “mental scrambles.” Regardless, he is by Julia’s side constantly. In 1989, he suffers a series of strokes and Julia cuts back her work and travel schedule.
From Julia Child’s Kitchen is published. The book is dedicated to the premise that “French cooking is simply good cooking” and contains all the recipes that were demonstrated on the second color series of The French Chef, while expanding, for the first time, into some popular American favorites.
Julia adds to her collection of beautiful French medals with the prestigious L’Ordre National du Mérite. Established in 1963, the National Order of Merit is awarded by the President of the French Republic for distinguished civil and military achievements.
Julia receives an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Boston University’s May Commencement. It is one of more than ten honorary doctorates Julia will receive, including from Bates College, Brown University, Rutgers University, Smith College, and Harvard University – where her citation reads, “A Harvard friend and neighbor who has filled the air with common sense and uncommon scents. Long may her soufflés rise.”
Julia Child & Company airs on PBS for 13 episodes – a different show from the beginning. Julia and her team felt it was time to move away from purely French tradition so they created a beautiful new set and a series built around planning, shopping, cooking and presenting menus for everyday occasions. The companion book, Julia Child & Company, is published in 1978.
Julia begins regular appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America, which continue through the ’80s. The three-minute segments would set the stage for a new era of cooking on television. In 1985, Julia traveled to Italy for GMA, filming a five-part series celebrating Italian food and culture, “Julia Child in Italy.” The series was so successful – ABC got letters from over 100,000 people – that it was aired again in 1987.
Julia, Robert Mondavi, and Richard Graff establish The American Institute of Wine & Food in San Francisco with the ambitious mission “to advance the understanding, appreciation and quality of wine and food.”
Julia begins a monthly cooking column for Parade Magazine, which, says editor Judith Jones, was “perfect because it wasn’t elitist. Julia wanted to bring her message to the average home cook and make that person a better cook. She was able to reach people all over America.” She would continue the column through 1986.