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TV Food Pioneer Julia Child Dies

Aug 15, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Julia Child, the venerable chef whose pioneering television cooking show in the 1960s helped inspire legions of TV-star chefs and a cable channel devoted to food and cooking, died early last Friday morning at her home in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was 91.

Ms. Child reportedly died in her sleep, just two days before her 92nd birthday.

Ms. Child came to television late in life, launching her television series “The French Chef” in 1963 at age 51. Produced by Boston public television station WGBH-TV, Ms. Child starred in 206 episodes, winning a Peabody Award in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966. “The French Chef” ultimately became the longest-running series in public television.

She went on to star in several follow-up series, including “Julia Child & Company” and “Dinner With Julia” and made guest appearances on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in the 1980s.

Brooke Johnson, president of Food Network, on Friday announced plans to air a tribute to Ms. Child during the week of Aug. 15. The date and time are to be announced.

“Julia Child was a unique figure in both food and television history,” Ms. Johnson said in a statement. “Her culinary skill, charismatic personality and endless enthusiasm for all things food changed the way Americans approached cooking and [are] directly responsible for the vibrancy and imagination of American cooking today. Food Network sends our sympathies to her family, friends and admirers.”

“Food Network’s Tribute to Julia Child” honors the career of Ms. Child, the cable network said. The one-hour special tells her life story-from meeting her husband to developing her love for food later in life. The show also features clips from “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson,” “Saturday Night Live,” classic Julia Child series and her guest appearances on Food Network. The tribute also incorporates interviews with Food Network chefs, including Emeril Lagasse, Sara Moulton, Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck.

The oldest of three children, Ms. Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, Calif. Her father was a wealthy farm consultant and investor and her mother stayed at home. She was raised in a house with cooks whose culinary skills she later described as mediocre.

Ms. Child graduated from Smith College in 1934. After a stint in public relations, she joined the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, and in 1943 was sent to do clerk work in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. There she met Paul Child, whom she married in 1946. Two years later, while living in Paris, Ms. Child enrolled in the renowned Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and found her calling in French cooking.

Ms. Child’s husband died in 1994, and after 45 years of living in Cambridge, Mass., Ms. Child in 2001 moved to Santa Barbara.

She is survived by a sister, Dorothy Cousins, and nieces and nephews.