11 Things You Didn’t Know About Julia Child

The iconic french chef had an interesting life outside the kitchen!

1 / 12
Child American television chef Julia Child shows a salade nicoise she prepared in the kitchen of her vacation home in Grasse, southern France

If you’ve seen the famed film Julie & Julia (if you haven’t please go stream it, you will not regret the $2.99 rental.) you may think you know everything there is about Julia Child. She moved to France! Her husband was in the government! She had a hard time making friends but went to culinary school! Butter!

While the motion picture does capture some facts about Child’s rise to culinary fame, there is so much more to know about this icon.

Don’t miss the our favorite recipes inspired by The French Chef!

2 / 12
Julia Child cooking on the set of her WGBH cooking show
Shutterstock / Bill Potter/Penske Media/REX

She had military aspirations

It’s well-known that Julia Child was tall. She dwarfed many of her guests on her popular TV show. Julia was a towering 6′ 2″. It was her height that stopped her from her ultimate goal of joining the military. She was turned away for being too tall.

3 / 12
Julia Child Book Signing and Demonstration
Shutterstock / BEI/REX

She worked as a spy

Though Julia couldn’t join the military she did take part in World War II—as a spy! Julia started as an assistant in the Office of Strategic Services, a government office similar to the CIA, and was promoted up the ladder.

4 / 12
Taste of Home

She was obsessed with roses

Child was famous for loving, really loving, butter. Her obsession was so well-known that she had this “butter yellow” rose variety named after her.

She’d surely approve of these meringue rose cookies, too.

5 / 12
Julia Child cooking on the set of her WGBH cooking show, 'The French Chef Julia Child
Shutterstock / Bill Potter/Penske Media/REX

She was a Cali Girl

While she was known for her French flair and New York sensibility, Child was born in Pasadena, California.

6 / 12
'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' book by Julia Child
Shutterstock / Marion Curtis/StarPix/REX

She mastered the art of omelet making

The first dish Julia Child made on TV wasn’t for her cooking show, it was part of the book tour for her first book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She made an omelet on a local Boston TV program.

For an extra-filling at-home omelet follow our tips for over-the-top-fully eggs.

7 / 12
Julia Child on the set of her cooking show, 'The French Chef Julia Child'
Gerry Nadel/Penske Media/REX/Shutterstock

She was a basketball star

As a very tall young woman, you can assume many people asked Child, “You’re so tall—do you play basketball?”, and the answer during her college years was, “Yes!” She played on her team at Smith College in Massachusetts.

8 / 12
ulia Child speaks to Food Network interviewer David Rosengarten during an interview at her home
Shutterstock / KUNI/AP/REX

She was a cancer survivor

Child found a lump in her breast in 1968 at the age of 55. In true Julia style, she told People, “I did not want to be whiny,” when describing her experience with cancer. After a potentially life-saving surgery, Child had a relatively private recovery and didn’t mention cancer much in public conversations.

9 / 12
Julia Child, center, is congratulated after receiving an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Brown University in Providence, R.I., at graduation ceremonies

She accomplished many firsts

Julia was the only woman in her first class at Cordon Bleu in 1949. She went on to be the first woman in the culinary world to do many things, including being the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

She had lessons for women across the world on learning to cook and eat, like the French.

10 / 12
Chef and cookbook author Julia Child shown in 1981
Shutterstock / AP/REX

Julia wasn’t a fan of Julie

Child never met blogger Julie Powell, featured in Julie & Julia. She did, however, comment on the blog just to say she did not endorse it and that Powell didn’t appear to be a serious chef.

Stay serious in the kitchen by following these 10 cardinal rules of top chefs.

11 / 12
Julia Child pulls on apron strings to open her kitchen exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington
Shutterstock / DENNIS COOK/AP/REX

Her kitchen is in a museum

Child donated her kitchen and kitchen tools to the Smithsonian. You can view the exhibit, Bon Appetit! Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian, at the National Museum of American History.

12 / 12
World famous chef, cookbook author and television show host Julia Child, shares a laugh with students from her alma mater

She loved French onion soup ’til the end

Child’s last meal was homemade French onion soup at the age of 91. She loved classic French dishes, and butter, her entire life.

Julia knew the ins and outs of French Onion Soup, and we have some recommendations for your soup making too.

Mandy Naglich
Mandy is a food and beverage writer with bylines at WNYC, Munchies, Mic and October. She's a Certified Cicerone and award-winning homebrewer living, writing and cooking in New York City.