Julia Child, the TV chef who demystified French cooking for American audiences with a delivery that was bubblier than the best champagne, died Friday morning, two days shy of her 92nd birthday, confirmed noncommerical WGBH-TV Boston, with which she teamed up on groundbreaking PBS series The French Chef.
"Julia Child was the grand dame of an era and of a whole genre of television," said WGBH President Henry Becton, Jr., "touching the lives of millions and igniting America’s fascination with cooking, beginning here at WGBH in Boston in 1962 with The French Chef. With her signature American gusto, Julia helped us appreciate not only the fine art of French cuisine, but also the richness of our own native fare. The warmth, irresistible humor, boundless energy, and passion for fine food she displayed on her many public television series made Julia America’s best-known and most beloved cooking expert. She will be deeply missed, and fondly cherished."
The station plans to salute Child on-air, including re-running an 80th birdthday salute and possibly moving up the airdate on a new bio in production that had been slated for air several months down the road.
"Julia Child's legacy to America is felt nowhere more strongly than at PBS," said Pat Mitchell, President and CEO of PBS. "When it all began on WGBH, Boston's public television station, in 1962, no one had ever done a cooking show on television. But Julia set a standard for far more than a genre that has grown exponentially ever since. She made sophisticated cooking techniques accessible while promoting the art of
cooking to men and women alike. She was a funny, witty and debonair character who charmed all who knew her - even if just by her television appearances. We're honored to have had her as part of the PBS family
and we will cherish her memory."
PBS plans Friday night tributes on both the NewHour and TuCker Carlson's show, as well as rebroadcasting an American Masters tribute Aug. 18.
Cable's Food Network, a direct benificiary of the TV cooking craze Child pioneered, will air its tribute/bio Aug. 15. "Julia Child was a unique figure in both food and television history," said network President Brooke Johnson. "Her culinary skill, charismatic personality, and endless enthusiasm for all things food changed the way Americans approached cooking and is directly responsible for the vibrancy and imagination of American cooking today. Food Network sends our sympathies to her family, friends and admirers."
Saying "the world will surely sadly miss one of its most treasured favorite chefs of all time," cable channel A&E announced it will air a biography of Child Sunday at 7-8.
WGBH-TV supplied the following bio:
"Child was born Julia McWilliams in Pasedena, California. In 1934 she graduated from Smith College, and when World War II broke out, she joined the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services). On her first assignment in Ceylon she met Paul Child (who also was in the O.S.S.); from Ceylon they were sent to China, and after the war they returned to the United States, where they were married in 1946. Mr. Child then joined the United States Information Agency, and after two years he was assigned to the American Embassy in Paris.
While in Paris with her husband, Julia Child enrolled in the Cordon Bleu, where she attended French cooking classes for six months, after which she studied privately.
With two friends, she eventually opened her own cooking school in Paris: L’Ecole des Trois Gourmands – the school of the three hearty eaters.
In 1961, Child and her two colleagues (Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle) published Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That same year, Paul Child retired from the Foreign Service and he and Julia settled in Cambridge, Mass.
She was invited to appear, in connection with her cookbook, on a WGBH television program called I’ve Been Reading. During the interview, she made an omelette and beat some egg whites in a large copper bowl.
After this charismatic appearance, WGBH producers suggested the idea of a cooking series, and in the summer of 1962 she did three pilot shows. There was no TV cooking at the time.
She went on the air with The French Chef on Feb. 11, 1963, and her cooking series and specials, which include Julia Child and Company, Julia Child and More Company, Dinner at Julia’s and Julia Child Cooking with Master Chefs have been aired and repeated without interruption ever since.
In 1998, at age 85, she returned to demonstrating cooking basics in her own kitchen with her final series: Julia Child and Jacques Pepin: Cooking at Home.
Child received numerous awards, including a Peabody Award in 1965 and, says WGBH, PBS' first Emmy in 1966. In 2003, she recieved the Presidential Medal of Freedom.