Julia Child's lasting impact

Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home 

In today's world of celebrity chefs, it can be difficult to imagine a time when chefs toiled anonymously in the kitchen. However, that was the norm until relatively recently, and one person who probably did more than anyone to bring chefs into the limelight is Julia Child. The Smithsonian Institution recognizes the contributions that Child made to the culinary world, and you can see her kitchen on display at its American History Museum. Recently, the Smithsonian held a Food History Gala to present the first ever Julia Child Award to Jacques Pépin.

Chef and author Marcus Samuelsson reminded gala guests that the "high-flying cultural status" of modern chefs is newly found. Even the evening's honoree, Jacques Pépin, spent his early career as a corporate chef for a large chain. Child is credited not only with paving the way for today's food stars, but also for making food itself  into "a cultural touchstone."  Other guests at the gala echoed these sentiments. Sara Moulton "pointed out that Julia's real métier was television - the great leveler." Moulton recalled a time when she and Child were setting up a food demo on a set. Julia said to Sara: "Aren't we having fun?" Moulton had to think about it for a minute before responding: "Yes, we are!"

It was Julia's exuberance and the pleasure she expressed while preparing food that made Julia Child an icon and the first "food superstar" in the United States. It seems fitting that Pépin was the first recipient of the Julia Child Award. As Marcus Samuelson put it: "Julia started it. Jacques caught the baton."

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