August 15, 2012
Julia Child's 100th Birthday
The scene in our living room in the early ‘60s will be familiar to many. I can picture my dad sitting in his chair, glued to the new black-and-white miracle of technology in our house, watching The French Chef... for the sheer fun of the show. Fast-forward nearly 15 years and I would find myself, as a young student at La Varenne cooking school in Paris, standing in front of Julia Child herself. At that first meeting, for a moment, I had Julia’s undivided attention and her intent interest in my goals and plans as a cook. (Happily, that encounter would lead to opportunities to work as a member of Julia’s team, to travel with her around the U.S. and in France, and to a treasured friendship until her death in 2004. I would even become executive director of that esteemed cooking school – due, in large measure, to her influence and support.) Countless times throughout the years that’s the scene which would became familiar to me – Julia engaging and encouraging both professional chefs and home cooks. She would rarely leave a restaurant without a visit to the kitchen or exit a book signing without having communed with everyone in line; she was an active mentor to many of us.
Julia was so approachable that people felt they knew her – no one hesitated to stride right up and start a conversation – and in fact, they did know her. After all, she’d been in our living rooms taking us by the hand in the kitchen for years. (Ever-embracing of new technologies, I believe Julia would be thrilled to know that she’s now literally in people’s hands, on digital devices.) But more than that, what people saw on camera was what they’d experience in person. It was all pure Julia.
Especially on the occasion of what would have been her 100th birthday, it’s clear that Julia Child is simply someone we love to love. For good reason – there are many qualities that endear her to us. She came into her own later in life and helped to redefine age. (One of her secrets to aging, I discovered, is that she never saw herself as old. After attending a Smith College reunion in her late 70s, she told me she’d never go to another. “Too many old people,” she said.) Julia loved hard and worked hard (more than anyone I have ever known) and accomplished great things that endure. (How many authors have a New York Times best seller nearly 50 years after publication?) She was opinionated, utterly authentic, and a self-professed ham. She managed to be both serious and a showman, making things look easy while never compromising her incredibly disciplined approach. She demystified and democratized French cooking (the gold standard and height of sophistication when she took the stage) and appeared to have a ball doing it.
Julia dedicated her support to the organizations and causes that mattered to her most, particularly those related to cooking and the pleasures of the table. In 1995, Julia created the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts (juliachildfoundation.org) for the purpose of continuing that support after she’d “slipped off the raft”, as she would often refer to dying. The Foundation is proud to help further Julia’s life’s work.
Julia believed in all of us. She felt that if she could show us how to cook well, we’d do just that. She wanted us to experience the pleasures – in both life and work – that she had, and to revel in good food. “The thing about food,” she said in a 1966 Time Magazine cover story, “is you’re a much happier person if you eat well and treasure your meals.”
So to quote Julia once again – on the occasion of her 100th birthday – “Bon Appétit!”
Susy DavidsonExecutive Director, The Julia Child Foundation
Below are some of the iterations and sketches along with rough color passes (both on paper and directly on the computer). They are in chronological order from the initial idea (a nod to her first show) to her personal kitchen at home and all of the wonderful details found in it.
What an honor and delight to have worked on Julia Child's 100th Birthday Doodle. I grew up in a household where we were very fortunate to have a mother who loved to cook. The benefits were abundant and delicious, and mom watching Julia Child definitely contributed to that. She touched and inspired her on all levels, weather it be with cooking or simply being human :)
...and the final Doodle incorporating some of Julia's signature dishes. I hope folks enjoy it as much as I enjoyed working on it.
posted by Willie Real