There are a lot of things home cooks and devoted fans know about Julia Child.
Many people know her as the person who brought French cooking techniques into American homes. They probably also know that she's considered the original celebrity chef since she was one of the first people to host her own televised cooking program.
Thursday, August 15 marks what would have been Child's 107th birthday. To honor her legacy, here are some fun facts about the beloved chef that even the most obsessed of fans may not know.
1. She needed specially designed countertops
At 6-feet, 2-inches tall, Child often towered over her guests on her cooking show. But, of course, it was her kitchen! To make it easier for Child to cook in her own space she had custom-built counter tops in her Boston home that were "a few inches higher than standard counters," according to the National Museum of American History, which houses her original kitchen from Cambridge, Massachusetts, in Washington, D.C.
2. Her first on-air demo was surprisingly basic
While best known for fancier dishes that often take hours to prepare, Child's first cooking segment was actually an omelet, which she made during her first appearance on WGBH, a local Boston station, in the early 1960s, while on tour promoting "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." She actually appeared on a segment called "I've been reading," which had been, until that point, about more traditional literature.
“I thought to myself, 'Who is this madwoman cooking an omelet on a book-review program?'" Russell Morash, her producer, told The New York Times in 2004.
3. She used an insane amount of butter — even later in life
According to PBS, Child used a whopping 753 pounds of butter during the time she filmed "Baking with Julia." That program aired for just four seasons, from 1996 through 1999, so that’s a pretty impressive amount of dairy.
4. It took her almost a decade to finish her first cookbook
Many authors get discouraged when they work hard on a book and don’t quickly see any rewards for their efforts, but that type of rejection happens to everyone — from J.K. Rowling to, of course, Julia Child. According to the Julia Child Foundation, it took her nine years of research, editing and recipe testing to complete her first cookbook.
5. The cooking gene did not run in Child's family
Many famous chefs will credit a parent for inspiring their love of food or cooking, but that wasn't the case for a young Child. During an interview with The Washington Post in 1992, Child revealed that her mother rarely (if ever) cooked while growing up and actually hired a chef to prepare the family's meals.
6. France wasn't the first country that sparked her love for food
While having a personal chef during one's childhood might seem like it would inspire some culinary adoration, it wasn't until Child went to live in China as a young woman during World War II that she truly began to appreciate the many depths of food. “The Chinese food was wonderful, and we ate out as often as we could," Child told The Wall Street Journal of her experience. "That is when I became interested in food. I just loved Chinese food."
7. It’s still possible to actually cook in her kitchen
Well, one of her kitchens, anyway. Julia Child’s former Provence country home La Pitchoune is currently available on Airbnb. The home is adorned with photos and memories of the Child family, but all anyone really cares about is that kitchen, right? Rentals start at $985 a night, so grab a few food-loving friends on your way over to France.
8. There’s a beautiful rose named after her
You haven't truly made it until a beautiful flower has been named after you. Fittingly, Child's rose is the color of melted butter, one of her favorite ingredients and staple in French cuisine. The Julia Child rose is said to have a licorice-like fragrance and be “consistent, hardy and floriferous.” Sounds rather like the legendary chef herself.
9. She wasn't a great cook until much later in life
When it came to food, Child was a late bloomer. She freely admitted she couldn’t cook until her early 30s, and she had a lot of mishaps along the way. She embraced her experiences, however, and knew that if recipes sometimes failed, she just had to try again. “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude,” she famously said. Child didn't get her first TV show until after she had turned 50, but she enjoyed decades of well-deserved success, serving as an inspiration to anyone who finds their passion later in life.
10. She had a delicious secret to healthful living
Child passed away in 2004, just a few days before she would have turned 92. But throughout her life, she clearly enjoyed many delicious — and rich! — foods. Child often touted eating well, but in moderation. In a 2001 TV interview Child declared, "I don't consider vegetarianism a sensible diet at all, because you're supposed to have a little bit of everything. How about red meat? Which I believe in." She continued, "As I've often said, red meat and gin."
Cheers to Julia Child, a true culinary legend!