The culinary queen of America, Julia Child, would celebrate her 100th birthday on Aug. 15 if she were still alive.
Yet her physical absence hasn’t daunted the popular television chef and author’s legion of fans from celebrating the century milestone.
Throughout the country, 100 restaurants will honor Child by reworking their house menus and offering some of the famous chef’s signature dishes, appetizers and desserts Aug. 7-15.
Among the handpicked restaurants that were asked to participate is Pearl Cafe in Missoula, which is the only Montana restaurant involved in the Julia Child Restaurant Week celebration.
“I’m honored and I’m excited about it,” said Pearl Cash, owner and chef of Pearl Cafe.
Cash will begin offering Child’s French-inspired dishes at her cafe on Aug. 8 and will continue with a grand finale on Child’s actual birthday, Aug. 15.
Child’s savory mushroom a la grecque, roquefort cheese ball, vichyssoise, country-style pate, marinated salmon gravlax, braised lamb and lemon tart are just some of the dishes Cash will be serving at her cafe.
The event is an opportunity to remember and reconnect with the affable and charming chef, who was so enthusiastic about cooking, she inspired confidence and joy for people who wanted to expand their kitchen talents, Cash said.
In the 1980s, Cash traveled to Seattle to take as many classes as she could from the master herself.
“She was such a character,” Cash said. “The most memorable class was the one where she talked about being on television and how she prepared food for that.
“She showed us her tool boxes she took anywhere she went to do a cooking show – she had a blow torch for things that refused to brown and she had all these tricks and tools.”
“That was tremendously fun,” she said. “And it was a huge thrill to meet her in person.”
An accessible personality is one of the traits that made Child so popular. But what made her a world-wide respected chef was the fact that she could translate difficult French recipes into readable and manageable form for Americans with a culinary curiosity.
“One of the things she did so well was that she trained over in France but then she came back and methodically translated what she learned so that it would work in the American kitchen with the things we could buy and that were available to us here,”Cash said. “For her book she spent all this time testing and working on recipes that we could all do here, and her books were so well written.
“She had such a positive attitude of ‘Well, if it doesn’t work out just the way you think it should, don’t throw it out – just rename it,’ ” Cash said. “You can’t but help feel that very human approach and be encouraged by it.”
“I took her lessons very much to heart,” she said. “Julia Child was such a mentor to so many of us of my generation in the cooking department.
“This happy, zany woman said you could do it – she was this inspiring coach and everyone loved that.”
Child died in 2004 two days before her 92nd birthday.
She was the host of the pioneering television series, “The French Chef,” and the author of the famous cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
In 1993, Child became the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame. In November 2000, she received France’s highest honor: the Legion d’Honneur, and in August 2002, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History unveiled an exhibit featuring the kitchen where she filmed three of her popular cooking shows.