One of the reasons a high-end French restaurant like Le Bec Fin was able to open in Philadelphia in the 1970s was a generation of foodies grew up watching Julia Child on television.
“Watching Julia’s shows as a child were the first cooking shows I ever watched,” said chef Kathy Gold, owner of In The Kitchen Cooking School. “I was really being brought up in a household where no one ever cooked. It was the first time I realized that food could be brilliant and beautiful and delicious. And fun.”
This Wednesday is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Julia Child, the woman who popularized French cooking in America, and arguably television’s most beloved cooking personality. She died in 2004.
To mark the occasion, area restaurants are featuring special French menus. Le Bec Fin is offering a French tasting menu (including French onion soup, ratatouille, and lobster Americaine) until Wednesday, when it throws a birthday dinner featuring crepes suzette.
Talula’s Table, a relatively new restaurant in Washington Square specializing in locavore cuisine, is offering a French tasting menu all week, including omelet with caviar, a summer bouillabaisse, and truffled hen.
Over the weekend, Les Dames d’Escoffier, a society of women chefs, held a potluck dinner for themselves. Members swapped dishes from Child’s groundbreaking cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and stories about Child.
Dame Adrienne Abramson remembers a chance meeting with Child at a food convention in 1990.
“I told her how much food meant to me, and how sorry I was that I took a different path — not working, and I was taking care of my children,” recalled Abramson. “She said, ‘With such passion, you need to do something with food, because life is nothing without passion.'”
Just in time for her centenary, a biography of Child has just been published by Alfred A. Knopf, “Dearie.”