Local chefs remember Julia Child, commemorating release of film ‘Julie & Julia’
Released into theatres over the weekend, Julie & Julia is a comedy film comparing events in the life of famed chef Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) with those of Julie Powell (Amy Adams), who is on a quest to cook all 524 recipes from one of Child’s cookbooks — Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Directed by Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Bewitched), the film is based on two books: My Life in France, a 2006 autobiography of Child written by her husband’s grandnephew Alex Prud’homme, and a memoir from Julie Powell, who in 2002 was a Lower Manhattan Development Corporation worker that chronicled via a blog her efforts to cook all 524 recipes in the book.
The blog, known as The Julie/Julia Project, received a tremendous following over a very short period of time and Powell eventually landed a book deal with publishing giant Little, Brown and Company. Julie and Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen was published in 2005 to critical acclaim.
The film, the first to ever be based on a blog, is an interesting and refreshing way to portray the life of Julia Child, who practically invented the idea of the “TV Chef” and inspired so many of today’s great chefs and amateurs alike. Ephron sets out to compare the trials and tribulations of Powell in her tiny modern-day Manhattan kitchen with those of Child during her time in France with U.S. foreign diplomat Paul Child (Stanley Tucci) in the 1940s and 1950s — her period of awakening to French cuisine.
The film is receiving generally positive reviews and finished second at the box office this weekend, grossing more than $20 million.
In the spirit of the release, rather than regurgitate what Julia Child meant to the Culinary Arts, we at the Entertainer asked a few publicist friends to ask their chefs what influence Julia Child had on them. Here are some of the responses we received:
Peyton Robertson at Bay Bird Inc. helpfully collected this from Chef Ricardo Heredia at Alchemy in South Park:
“Definitely Julia Child was an influence on me. I watched her show on PBS every Saturday before Kung Fu Theatre! Julia is truly an American culinary icon and her Mastering the Art of French Cooking was an inspirational book and proof of her relentless quest for culinary knowledge. It is people like her that remind me every day that the culinary field, in my opinion, is an infinite search for knowledge and perfection of the craft. Thanks, Julia.”
Phillipe Beltran, owner of French restaurant Bleu Boheme in Kensington:
“I was not in the country when she started and never heard of her in France. Then, i do not have TV here so I do not know her shows at all… I just know of her and that she had a funny voice.”
“As the American Godmother of French cuisine, Julia’s passion for the culinary art touched millions, including myself. On television, she was fearless, energetic, witty and unique. Her cooking was an inspiration to all audiences. A lot of my teachings reflect the essence of this gentle giant. She and I celebrated our craft together, on one unforgettable winter night in 2002 at the Marine Room, gazing over the crashing waves and toasting our culinary journeys.”
Chef Andrew Spurgin, Executive Director/Chef of Waters Fine Catering:
“Julia Child is the Grand Dame of the culinary revolution in The States, an inspiration to me, and so many, on so many levels. Mastering the Art of French Cooking was given to me as a gift in the mid 70’s. I was 16 and loved cooking from it … whether anyone liked eating what I made was a different matter entirely. I hold my stained, broken binded copy so dear. To meet her at The Perfect Pan and Pirets in Mission Hills in the 80’s was a dream come true, such an icon. I can just hear Dan Aykroyd as Julia on Saturday Night Live saying ‘Welcome. I’m Julia Child. Today, we’re going to make a holiday feast, and we’re going to start with a half-boned chicken…’ That kills me EVERY time I watch it, Julia was so universally loved. I totally enjoyed the Julia & Julia movie. Meryl Streep was, in a word, brilliant.”
“When I was 11 my parents gave me a copy of Fanny Farmer. The next year I received Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I considered Julia and Fanny my first girlfriends. When I was an apprentice at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in 1981, we put on a dinner for the American Institute of Food and Wine (AIWF) started by Robert Mondavi. At that dinner Mr. Mondavi, Jacque Pepin and Julia Child were in attendance. We were all trooped up onto the stage after the dessert and given a round of applause by the attendees and then shuffled off to clean our stations. My part was very minimal setting up salads and being a part of the human conveyour belt as we plated the entrée, but, oh my, I fed Julia Child!”
Jason Knibb, Executive Chef of NINE-TEN Restaurant in La Jolla:
“Julia Child is the godmother of all things related to cooking. From as far back as I can remember, my mom would cook from her books almost exclusively. It is from watching this that I was inspired to become a chef. Julia truly led the way and introduced the French style of cooking into America’s kitchen. And I for one am eternally grateful for that and for her.”
*Here’s the trailer for the film Julie & Julia: