Julia Child's TV show, The French Chef, was extraordinarily popular during its broadcast from 1963 until 1973. Child became a cultural icon in the 1960s, and, in the years since, she and her show have remained enduring influences on American cooking, American television, and American culture. In this concise book, Dana Polan considers what made Child's program such a success. It was not the first televised cooking show, but it did define and popularize the genre. Polan examines the development of the show, its day-to-day production, and its critical and fan reception. He argues that The French Chef changed the conventions of television's culinary culture by rendering personality indispensable. Child was energetic and enthusiastic, and her cooking lessons were never just about food preparation, although she was an effective and unpretentious instructor. They were also about social mobility, the discovery of foreign culture, and a personal enjoyment and fulfillment that promised to transcend domestic drudgery. Polan situates Julia Child and The French Chef in their historical and cultural moment, while never losing sight of Child's unique personality and captivating on-air presence.
Dana Polan is Professor of Cinema Studies at New York University. He is the author of The Sopranos, also published by Duke University Press, and Scenes of Instruction: The Beginnings of the U.S. Study of Film.
Acknowledgments ix 1. The Difference She Made 1 2. Television Cookery b.c. (Before Child) 41 3. French Cuisine, American Style 78 4. The Beginnings of The French Chef 114 5. Prepping The French Chef 137 6. The Success of The French Chef 185 7. New Beginnings and the Ending to The French Chef 214 8. Kitchen Drama 231 Notes 249 References 277 Further Readings on TV Cooking Shows 285 Index 289