The Love Story Behind Julia Child and Her Husband Paul

You know Julia Child--the cooking whiz and television personality who wrote numerous canonical cookbooks including Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But you may not know about Julia's husband, Paul, who, in addition to being a loving husband, was actually the first person to encourage Julia to start cooking. According to one biography about Child, she said, "Without Paul Child, I would not have had my career."

Meet Julia McWilliams and Paul Child

Celebrity chef Julia Child and her husband Paul Child at their home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
(Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)

Celebrity chef Julia Child was a teacher, an author, and a television personality. She was known for popularizing French cuisine in America and her cooking show, The French Chef. (She would later become the first woman inducted into The Culinary Institute of America's Hall of Fame.) But before all of that, she was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California.

After graduating from Smith College in Northhampton, Massachusetts with a major in history, she first worked as an advertising copywriter. Julia joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) for the Second World War after she found out that she was too tall to enlist in the Women's Army Corps (WACs) or in the U.S. Navy's WAVES, according to Wikipedia. Even so, she eventually became Head of the Registry of the OSS Secretariat.

Paul Cushing Child grew up in Boston, surrounded by family that had a deep love of food and gestational flair. During World War II, he also joined the OSS, and met Julia McWilliams while stationed in Kandy, Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka).

A 50-Year Marriage

The two were married in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, in 1946 and later moved to Washington, D.C. Paul loved world cuisine and fine food, and Julia Child's husband is credited with with introducing her to the world of cooking she became so famous for.

After their marriage, Julia attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. She then joined the women's cooking club Le Cercle des Gourmettes and met Simone Beck, who was writing a cookbook on French cuisine for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. French food became the norm in Julia's kitchen during her time in both Paris and Marseille.

Eventually, the Childs moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. Julia and her friends continued to explore cooking together, and the Childs even built a home near the Provence town of Plascassier on property that belonged to Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. Together, Beck, Bertholle, and Child wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Amazon

Throughout her budding career, Paul remained a committed partner, although the trials of fame would take their toll on the relationship. They remained married until Paul's death in 1994.

?Julia's Career and Legacy

Beyond The French Chef, Julia also starred in more TV shows such as Julia Child & Company, Julia Child & More Company, and Dinner at Julia's. She also made a book and instructional video series called The Way To Cook. Julia founded the American Institute of Wine & Food in 1981 with vintners Robert Mondavi and Richard Graff.

Chef Julia Child chopping squash as her husband, Paul photographs her for an upcoming cookbook.
(Photo by Lee Lockwood/Getty Images)

Paul Child designed the kitchen Julia cooked in during many of her shows, and it's now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Julia was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003 and received honorary doctorates from Harvard University, Johnson & Wales University, Smith College, Brown University, and lots of other educational institutions thanks to her long career as an author, media personality, and cook.

Julia lived for an additional decade after Paul's passing, eventually dying in 2004 of kidney failure in California. After her passing, Julia's last book, the autobiographical My Life in France, was published posthumously in 2006 and written with her grandnephew, Alex Prud'homme. There have also been other books written and TV skits done about her. Meryl Streep also portrayed Julia in the 2009 feature film Julie & Julia.

It all started because of a couple who loved food!

READ MORE: Watch Julia Child and Mister Rogers Make Spaghetti Together

This article was originally published on August 13, 2021.

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