Current Work

The working title of my new book is The French Chef in America.  It will be published by Knopf.
In 2004 I helped Julia Child write her memoir, My Life in France. She died that August, two days shy of her ninety-second birthday, and it took me another year to finish the book. It was published in 2006, and inspired half of the movie “Julie & Julia,” which appeared in 2009.  My Life in France was about how Julia discovered herself through cooking in Paris and Marseille in the 1950s, published Mastering the Art of French Cooking with Simca Beck and Loisette Bertholle in 1961, and began her career as a television personality in 1963. These were Julia’s formative years, when she was in her thirties, forties and early fifties.
Now, a decade after Julia died, I have circled back to look at Julia in the 1970s, when she underwent another profound transformation — one that I was only superficially aware of.
The Seventies was a decade of gobal tumult, when many traditional shibboleths were literally being blown apart.  For Julia it was the best of times, and the worst: a period when she broke from her colleague Simca Beck and classical French cuisine, rediscovered her American roots, and used recipes from around the world – New England Clam Chowder, Asian curries, Belgian cookies, and Italian pastas.  Julia and her husband Paul Child (my grandfather’s twin brother) were living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, surrounded by an exceptional group of neighbors, and deeply involved in civic life.  She brought cameras into the White House during the Johnson and Ford administrations, appeared on the cover of Time, made a series of documentary films, celebrated the nation’s Bicentennial, was spoofed by Dan Aykroyd on “Saturday Night Live,” and hit her professional stride. For the first time in her career, Julia wrote in the first-person and told personal stories — about eating Caesar’s Salad in Tijuana with Caesar himself, cooking with James Beard and Jacques Pepin, tangling with Paul Bocuse and other kings of Nouvelle Cuisine, and mentoring young chefs like Sara Moulton — as she transformed herself from “The French Chef” into “Julia Child.”  Yet, even as she reached the apex of her celebrity, Julia was confronted by some of the darkest and most challenging moments of her life.
The French Chef in America, then, is about Julia Child’s “second act,” when she reinvented herself while in her sixties, and finally discovered her own true voice.

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