There are certain creative pros both current and past that I truly admire — one is Julia Child.
Throughout the food TV and cookbook world, the iconic “French Chef” was known for her hard work and professionalism and for her sense of fun. For the ContentMeant blog, I’ve written about Julia Child’s life and road to publishing her first book as well as about the marketing lessons that can be taken from her long and productive career.
But here, I remember her personally
Years ago, I was fortunate enough to have worked with Julia on a reprinted, bind-up edition of two of her cookbooks, entitled Julia Child’s Menu Cookbook. The first time I called her Cambridge home, she answered her own phone and I thought someone was playing a prank on me — her voice had exactly the high-pitched vibration as it did on television. She was warm and lovely.
At that time, Julia was 80-ish — but her intense schedule of appearances was so packed that it made me — many decades her junior — tired. But Julia was ever the epitome of a low-maintenance author. The most she ever asked for was this was an extra hour or so in the hired limo to her local book signings. As her beloved husband, Paul Child, was in a nursing home and the extra limo time was so she could visit him.
A few years after I worked with her, I was with Doubleday and had the pleasure of marketing one of her biographies — Appetite for Life, by Noel Riley Fitch. Then, one day on my way to an orthodontist appointment, I ran into Julia on the street in Midtown Manhattan. I remembered myself to the very recognizable author, who had just had lunch with Michael Lomonaco, then the chef at “21” (and whose 21 Cookbook I’d also worked on).
While Julia and I stood on the street, a small crowd gathered to also offer help. Julia was looking for Pennington’s du Canada, a “big and tall” woman’s store then in the Rockefeller Center, and was a little turned around. I walked her to the shop and all the way she dished gossip about the then-upcoming new edition of The Joy of Cooking, which was infamously behind schedule at that point.
After I left Doubleday for Wiley to work exclusively on cookbooks, I reached out to Julia for a blurb for Nigella Lawson’s first cookbook for the U.S. market. Gracious as always, Julia declined to blurb the book (it was her policy not to), but she responded to my request with a long, personal, typewritten letter, congratulating me on my new job and complimenting the quality of the Wiley cookbook list.
I put the letter in Nigella’s file and it’s no doubt been lost as offices have moved. But on the anniversary of Julia Child’s birth, I want to honor her memory as true creative pro with whom it was a pleasure to work.