Julia Child was born Julia McWilliams in Pasadena, Calif. After she graduated from Smith College in 1934, she spent several years in advertising and publicity, and joined the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Her war career took her to Washington, D.C., Southeast Asia, and China, where she met her husband, Paul Child. Following their marriage in 1946, Paul joined the U.S. Information Service in Washington, and they were eventually sent to Paris, where Julia began her culinary career at Le Cordon Bleu. After more than four years in Paris they were stationed in Marseilles, then in Germany; and Paul ended his diplomatic career in Norway. They then settled into a large, gray house in Cambridge, Mass. After Paul’s death in 1994, Julia spent the winter months in Santa Barbara, Calif. In 2001 she closed up the Cambridge house and moved permanently to her native California, where she resided until her death in 2004.
While in Paris, in 1949, Julia met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, and joined the French gastronomical society, Le Club des Gourmettes. Later the three women opened their cooking school, L'Ecole des Trois Gourmandes, and began work on their first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which was eventually published in 1961.
By this time, the Childs had returned to America and settled in the Boston area where Julia taped her first public television series The French Chef, which aired in February 1963. After some 200 programs in classical French cooking, she branched out into contemporary cuisine with the television series Julia Child and Company, followed by Dinner at Julia’s. All of these shows were produced by Russell Morash, also the producer of the public television favorite, This Old House, and The Victory Garden. In 1972 she received an Emmy nomination, and was awarded Emmys in 1995 for the Master Chef series and in 1997 for Baking with Julia. In 1984, with WGBH, she completed six one-hour teaching videocassettes, "The Way to Cook," published by Alfred A. Knopf. In 1999 she received the Ralph Lowell Award for Programming Excellence from public television. Further, she was elected a member of the prestigious National Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In addition to repeats of the public television series, Julia’s other television appearances were with such national shows as David Letterman, Good Morning America, and Rosie O’Donnell. Julia was featured on the Television Food Network, and served as host to the Master Chef series, which appeared on public television stations nationwide. The first 26 episodes, Cooking with Master Chefs, were taped in chef’s home kitchens, while the next two series were done in Julia’s own kitchen. In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs was followed by Baking with Julia, which was accompanied by a large, fully illustrated book authored by Dorrie Greenspan and published by William Morrow & Company. In her final television series, she teamed up with Jacques Pépin in Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, accompanied by a book and video series of the same name. All of these series were produced by Geoffrey Drummond and A La Carte Communications.
Her own books include Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961), The French Chef Cookbook (1968), Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. II, co-authored with Simone Beck, (1970), From Julia Child's Kitchen (1977), Julia Child & Company (1979), and Julia Child & More Company (1980). From 1982 to 1986 she authored a monthly cooking column in Parade Magazine, the photographs for which formed the pictorial basis for her large, illustrated basic book, The Way to Cook. These books are published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. A new work, Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, an aide memoir for the home cook, was published by Knopf in the fall of 2000 to accompany a public television special including snippets from a goodly number of her television shows dating back to the very first one, Beef Bourguignon, in February 1963.
Mrs. Child was interviewed and written about in such publications as Time, Life, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, TV Guide, USA Today, US News and World Report, Newsday, and The New York Times. She appeared on numerous national radio and television shows such as Larry King Live, Fresh Air, The Johnny Carson Show, the Phil Donahue Show, A&E Biography, and Charlie Rose. She received honorary degrees from Bates College, Rutgers, Smith College, Harvard University, Brown University, Newbury College, Johnson and Wales University, University of Massachusetts, and Boston University, and was made an honorary member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Radcliffe College. She was elected a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, and was awarded the French Ordre de Mérite Agricole, Ordre de Mérite Nationale, and Confrérie de Cèrés.
Mrs. Child was very much committed not only to the furthering of gastronomy as a recognized discipline, but also to the encouragement of young people to enter the profession. To this end she was an active member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, was an honorary trustee of COPIA – The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts in Napa Valley, and was particularly involved with The American Institute of Wine & Food, of which she was one of the Founders. The Institute is a non-profit educational organization established in 1981, whose object is to advance the understanding, appreciation, and quality of wine and food.
Julia Child revolutionized the way Americans think about cooking and appreciate food. She had a major influence on our American lifestyle through her television series, books, national appearances, and involvement with all levels of the culinary world. Her famous Cambridge, Mass. kitchen was removed by the archivists of the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and set as an exhibit open to the public in September 2002. Julia Child died on Aug. 13, 2004 at age 91, but her culinary legacy lives on.