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Goodbye, Julia
Aging Gourmet Retires Her Cambridge, Mass. Kitchen

Listen Listen to NPR member station WBUR reporter Rachel Gotbaum's interview with Julia Child.
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Julia Child's kitchen in Cambridge, Mass., where she's cooked meals for the past 40 years.
Photo: WBUR.org

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Julia ChildView photos from the "Cambridge Salutes Julia" celebration

Nov. 9, 2001 -- After four decades at the same Cambridge, Mass. address, television grand dame of gastronomy Julia Child is moving to a California retirement home. Her impact on the local food scene is evident in the number of farewell soirees that appreciative fans and colleagues have thrown for her over the past few weeks. On Wednesday, the city of Cambridge saluted Julia with yet another party in her honor.

At 89 Julia Child is a bit shaky on her feet. However, her spirit, her appetite and her opinions are unwavering, as is her fondness for the large country kitchen in her Cambridge home where she has cooked for the past 40 years.

Julia Child is over six feet tall, so she raised the kitchen counters to accommodate her frame. That was one of the few changes she made. The other is a signature pegboard wall built by her husband to hang pots and pans. They are the same pots and pans still hanging there after all these years.

Child grew up in Southern California. In 1934 she graduated from Smith College. As a young woman, Child moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for the Office of Strategic Services. She was sent to Ceylon -- now Sri Lanka -- where she met another American, Paul Child. After the war, they married and eventually moved to Paris, France.

In 1961Child was scheduled to be interviewed on WGBH-TV about her cookbook. But Child had other plans -- she wanted to show the world how to make a proper omelet, the French way. That omelet was Child's TV debut. She would go on to become public television's first chef, and her show The French Chef would revolutionize how Americans cooked.

Child enrolled in the Cordon Bleu cooking school. Her first teacher was chef Max Binyar. Her training there led to her first book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." It took ten years to write. The original manuscript was 800 pages long. In 1961, the year Julia Child moved to Cambridge, she was scheduled to be interviewed on WGBH-TV about her cookbook. But Child had other plans, and she insisted on bringing eggs, a pan, a copper bowl, and a whisk. She wanted to show the world how to make a proper omelet -- the French way.

That omelet was Child's TV debut. She would go on to become public television's first chef, and her show The French Chef would revolutionize how Americans cooked.

Now, over four decades later, Julia Child has given up her television career and is moving back to her native California to a retirement community. She will never truly retire, though. She plans to write a memoir about her life in Paris with her husband Paul.

Child will be donating her sprawling Cambridge house to her alma mater Smith College, but her kitchen will be moved to the Smithsonian.

Contributed by NPR member station WBUR, reported by Rachel Gotbaum.