Julia Child Was the First Woman to Achieve a Major Culinary Institute of America Honor

There are currently an endless amount of cooking TV shows. Iron Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Chopped, and Top Chef are just a few of the programs available to viewers today.

In the early 60s, people weren’t so fortunate. They were left to their own device when it came to cooking. There were no television programs to help them prepare a meal, and all they had to rely on was their trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook.

That is, until America’s most beloved chef, Julia Child, came along.

Who was Julia Child?

Born in 1912, Child became an extraordinary chef that introduced America to French cooking. She inspired a generation of at-home cooks and restaurateurs across the country with her playful personality.

The icon, who filmed three television cooking programs, taught her audience that cooking was fun and easy to learn. Most importantly, she was always happy while doing it.

During WWII, Child fell in love with food while stationed in Asia. She met her husband, Paul Child, and the two moved to Paris, where she attended Le Cordon Bleu.

It is there that she wrote her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and started holding cooking classes in her small apartment.

The couple returned to America, and Child began promoting her cookbook. At a Boston PBS station, she prepared her first dish on television, an omelet. An instant hit, the station invited Child to do her own cooking show.

At a time when French cuisine was considered off-limits, Child captivated audiences with her “teachable moments.” The French Chef ran for ten seasons from 1963 to 1973.

Julia Child, award-winning chef

In 1966, Time magazine dubbed Child “Our Lady of the Ladle.” Unlike anyone before or after her, Child’s carefree attitude inspired amateur chefs, letting them know that it was okay to make mistakes.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1968, at the age of 55, Child fought a private battle and went on to recover. This experience developed an outcry for the use of better ingredients in the kitchen. Child is often credited with being the first professional chef to understand the need for sustainable and organic foods.

Throughout her illustrious career, Child has won countless awards. She has been recognized by her peers, receiving The Peabody Award, James Beard Award, Daytime and Primetime Emmy Awards, and National Book Award. In 2003, George W. Bush awarded Child the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award.

There is now an annual Julia Child award given out every year by the Julia Child Foundation. It honors not only her lifetime of achievement but other chefs in the food industry who make a “profound and significant difference in the way America cooks, eats, and drinks.”

Groundbreaking firsts

The cultural phenomenon broke barriers proving that a woman’s place did not need to be in the home, showcasing her professional skills for all the world to see. In 1949, Child was the first woman to attend Le Cordon Bleu in France.

She created the first cookbook that presented everything in a step-by-step approach, with easy to follow directions. Her ever-popular program, The French Chef, was the first nationwide cooking show to air on public television.

Child was the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Hall of Fame. Through her tenacity and love for food, she changed the face of cooking in this country. She taught a generation of aspiring chefs how to cook and eat like the French.

In 2004, at the age of 91, Child passed away. Her love for classic French dishes and butter lasted her entire life, and it’s said that her last meal was French Onion Soup. The one-of-a-kind chef left behind a lasting legacy.

PBS currently airs Dishing With Julia Child, a television series that examines her life and legacy. Each episode features a modern-day chef who was inspired by The French Chef. There have been countless skits on Saturday Night Live poking fun at Child’s show and a movie starring Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia follows the life of the charismatic chef.

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History now houses Child’s original kitchen from her Cambridge, Massachusetts home. The Bon Appetit! permanent exhibit features her kitchen and all the iconic cooking tools that she used on her shows.

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