With the 1961 publication of her groundbreaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking(co-authored with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle), Julia Child launched a highly successful effort to demystify French cuisine by enabling American cooks “to create French dishes in American kitchens with American foods.”
Mastering the Art of French Cooking sold more than 100,000 copies in its first year and also provided the springboard to Child's improbable career in television. In February 1962, just four months after her cookbook's release, Child appeared on a local interview program on WGBH in Boston and matter-of-factly prepared a mushroom omelet. Viewers were enchanted, and letters poured in asking for more opportunities to see Child in action. The result was the debut on July 26, 1962, of The French Chef—the half-hour cooking show on public television that would make Julia Child a household name and a culinary icon.
Rayna Greene, curator at the National Museum of American History, recently discussed Child and her portrait by David Marlin. Greene was instrumental in bringing Julia Child’s kitchen to the Smithsonian.
Listen to Rayna Green’s Face-to-Face talk on Julia Child (27:57)
Face-to-Face occurs every Thursday evening at the National Portrait Gallery. The next talk is tonight (March 25), when Wendy Wick Reaves, curator of prints and drawings at NPG, speaks about Gertrude Stein. The talk runs from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. Visitors meet the presenter in the museum’s F Street lobby and then walk to the appropriate gallery.
Julia Child / David Marlin / Gelatin silver print, 1971 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired through the generosity of Ann M. Shumard in honor of Thomas D. Matteson