I am Chef Nancy’s new culinary intern. In twelve short weeks I will be graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. I will be joining an elite group of chefs who have completed this degree, including the beloved, Julia Child. Like Julia, I entered Le Cordon Bleu as a “non-traditional student”: married, middle-aged and a woman. In light of her 100th birthday, I find myself thinking of her and the impact she made on the culinary world…and, perhaps, on me.
Julia Child was arguably, America’s first celebrity chef. Many of us grew up watching her on TV. I know I did. Everything about her seemed exaggerated and almost cartoonish: her unusually, large stature; her heavy French-like accent; her overly simple wardrobe paired with a string of pearls; her mop of hair; her painfully, extensive knowledge of French cuisine; and her unmistakable voice. She was not today’s image of a celebrity chef, but none the less, Americans were drawn to her her…and some of us still are.
Julia was a pioneer in the culinary world. I believe, her weekly television show did much more than she ever intended. Not only did she introduce French cooking techniques and new ingredients to the American housewife, but she inspired them. She made it possible for women to dream beyond their home kitchens and find jobs in professional ones. Women can make careers out of something we have done since the beginning of time…cook.
Happy 100th birthday, Chef Child. And thank you! I am looking forward to graduation and wearing that tall toque…with a string of pearls.