In 1963, a recent BU grad named Russell Morash, Jr. got his chance to direct a television show at WGBH and he ended up making Julia Child a new kind of celebrity — the star of a cooking show.
Morash's theater-inspired directorial style, and the technology of the day, determined that the scrappy staff and magnificent cook, all collected in a makeshift studio cobbled together with equipment that had escaped a massive station fire, would shoot their educational shows in one take. The plan gave Julia Child a stage from which she delighted audiences with her genuine love for food. It also established an in-the-moment template for a new kind of public television show that Morash took with him to launch other stellar series, such as "This Old House" and "Victory Garden."
By giving Child 30 minutes at a time to chop, stir and riff in the kitchen while sending through the airways all kinds of tips and opinions (even once slamming a poorly designed rolling pin to the floor), Morash allowed viewers to experience what it was like to really cook with Julia, and they loved it.
"When we would go to restaurants or to friends homes, or just in simple conversations with strangers, who knew I was connected with Julia, there was a light bulb that went off. There was a smile that lit up that person's face as they asked about her. That did not really happen with a lot of the other programs we were offering the public in those early days of educational television," Morash said.
The week of Aug. 13, foodies all around the world will raise a glass, make a toast, and pay tribute to the cooking legend. Child would have been 100 years old on Aug. 15. Today, you can't surf your TV without seeing food channels, cooking shows and top chefs. But back in 1963, when Julia's show "The French Chef" debuted on WGBH, she and Morash were pioneers.
See early episodes of "The French Chef" online, as well photos and tributes to Julia Child and some of her most popular recipes. Visit Celebrating Julia on WGBH. While you're there, try your wit on the photo caption contest.