HONORING JULIA CHILD
Eric W. Spivey shared his memories of a Montecito culinary legend shortly after Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo declared Thursday Julia Child Day.
“She (Mrs. Child) was a generous person. She was humble and interested in others and what she could learn from them,” Mr. Spivey, chairman of the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, told the News-Press.
He also praised the author of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961) and host of the Emmy-winning series “The French Chef” for her ability to instruct people “and give them empowerment on how to cook on their own.”
The love for Mrs. Child was clear at the Montecito Club, where a large crowd gathered to hear Ms. Murillo read the city of Santa Barbara proclamation. The declaration praised Mrs. Child for being a respected teacher and writer who taught generations of food enthusiasts.
After the proclamation, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” in honor of Mrs. Child, who would have been 107 Thursday. Attendees enjoyed a birthday cake created by The Little Things Bakery in Santa Barbara.
The declaration of Julia Child Day set the stage for Mr. Spivey’s announcement of Santa Barbara Culinary Art Experience, set for March 13-15, 2020. The Julia Child Foundation for event will involve chefs, mixologists, restaurateurs and others in the community.
Mr. Spivey told the News-Press that the city-wide event in Mrs. Child’s honor will feature seminars, panels, debates and eating and drinking events. “”Over 20 restaurants will serve Julia-inspired dishes.”
He told the crowd that Mrs. Child spent her winters in Santa Barbara to escape the cold of Boston and her summers here to avoid the heat of Pasadena. “Julia loved Santa Barbara.”
Mr. Spivey noted Mrs. Child chose to live here full time during the last four years of her life.
Thursday’s Julia Child Day proclamation at the Montecito Club was filmed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, the directors and producers of “RBG,” the 2018 documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ms. Cohen and Ms. West addressed the crowd and said their next documentary would be about Mrs. Child.
“We really wanted to find a subject who, like RBG, did something more than just achieve success in her own career, someone who faced and overcame obstacles, someone who was a singular sensation forging a unique path – a woman who it would not be an exaggeration or a cliche to say she changed the world,” Ms. West said.
Added Ms. Cohen, “We knew we found our woman – a woman who changed the way Americans think about food, the way they think about the way they think about women. Today is our very first shoot.”
Ms. Cohen said she and Ms. West were excited to collaborate with the Julia Child Foundation and Alex Prud’homme, who attended the reception. Mr. Prud’homme, Mrs. Child’s great-nephew, worked with her on her book “My Life in France” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006).
As her crew filmed the crowd, Ms. Cohen asked her audience not to tweet or broadcast the news about the documentary because she and Ms. West would later make a public announcement.
“Too late!” yelled one man in the room, which included people with smart phones and reporters from several media outlets.
After the announcements, Ms. Murillo told the News-Press that Mrs. Child added to families’ well-being as they sat down and had a good meal together. The mayor said Mrs. Child graced the streets and restaurants of Santa Barbara and encouraged her TV viewers to “take a risk, try this recipe, try something different.”
“She spent time here and fell in love with the city like many people do,” Ms. Murillo said.
Mr. Spivey told the crowd how Mrs. Child loved to go with him to Costco for hot dogs or In-N-Out Burger for a hamburger. He said they also went together to high-end restaurants for a fine meal.
Mrs. Child started the Julia Child Foundation in 1995, and the organization became operational in 2004, the year she died from kidney failure. The nonprofit has carried out the mission of furthering Mrs. Child’s legacy, which focuses on where food comes from, what makes good food and the value of cooking.
During the last decade, the Julia Child Foundation has made more than $2 million in grants to other nonprofits. In 2015, the nonprofit created the Julia Child Award, presented in association with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
The reception included Mrs. Child’s favorite hors d’ oeuvres, prepared by her friend Montecito Club chef Jamie West, and wines by Santa Barbara County wine makers.
Billy Harris, who served as the evening’s host, talked about the Founder’s Dinner for 25 couples set for Feb. 29 at The Lark in the Funk Zone. He announced it would take place Feb. 29. He said slots were still available for 16 more couples who make a donation to the foundation. Proceeds will benefit the Santa Barbara Culinary Experience in partnership with the Julia Child Foundation.
Executive Chef Jason Paluska will host the dinner with James Beard Foundation award-winning chefs Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Goin and Michael Cimarusti. Together, they will create multi-course dinner inspired by Mrs. Child and paired with wines from Santa Barbara County vintners.
For more information on the foundation, go to www.juliachildfoundation.org.