Julia Child, Portrayed by Karen Vuranch

We’re “cooking up” a great Winter Chautauqua for you.

Karen Vuranch will perform as Julia Child February 11 – 13, 2022. But we haven’t quite gotten all the details in place. We are currently evaluating the safest and best performance venues to hold indoor shows next February. These shows will be free, however, registration may be required to ensure safe social distancing for these very popular Winter Chautauqua shows. We will post the venues and times soon. Please note that we will always have the safety of our audience foremost in mind and the venues and restrictions may change closer to the performance dates if the covid-19 situation changes.

Now for “the main course”

Cooking legend Julia Child is coming to Greenville to stir up our passion for food and make us laugh.

Julia Child challenged the way Americans prepared and enjoyed food!  After moving to France in the 1950’s with her diplomat husband, she became passionate about French food and immersed herself in culinary techniques and traditions. Along with two French chefs, she wrote the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, an iconic cookbook considered a masterpiece.

She introduced French cuisine to America in 1963 with WGBH’s pioneering television series, The French Chef. (Her show was the first show on public television to win an Emmy.)

She not only encouraged Americans to cook creatively, but helped to establish the culinary arts as a respected profession. She helped to establish academic programs, professional associations, endorsed the Food Network and even helped to establish public television. Until her death in the early 2000’s, she continued to have an impact on the culinary world.


Shows Schedule


    Karen Vuranch weaves together a love of history, a passion for stories and a sense of community. She has been a Chautauqua scholar, actor and storyteller for over 30 years and has toured nationally and internationally with Coal Camp Memories a storytelling drama written from oral histories she collected about a woman’s life in the coalfields. Karen teaches at Concord University, where she is the Director of the Theatre Department.

    In addition to television food star Julia Child, Karen also recreates historical figures including author Pearl Buck; labor organizer Mother Jones; humanitarian Clara Barton, Indian captive Mary Draper Ingles, 16th century Irish pirate Grace O’Malley, Wild West outlaw Belle Starr, beloved children’s author Laura Ingles Wilder, and American literary giant Edith Wharton. Her newest character is Gertrude Bell, archaeologist, and Middle East expert also known as the female Lawrence of Arabia.  Potluck, an innovative show about the importance of food in a community, is performed with singer/songwriter Julie Adams and poet Colleen Anderson.

    Bon Appétit! Julia Child by Karen Vuranch

    In recent years, the Food Network has captured the imagination of Americans, and the art and love of cooking has transcended from “women’s work” to a hobby and passion for both men and women. But, before there was Rachael, Emeril or Paula, a tall, gangly woman with a preposterous voice and joy of life revolutionized the art of cooking for Americans.  In the 1960’s, Julia Child brought her love of French cooking to the American public. She became an icon of gourmet cooking and, using her remarkable energy and humor, changed the way American thought about food, convincing a nation that anyone could create gourmet meals. Julia Child was truly an innovative person as she shared own enthusiasm for food and, in turn, created a national obsession with cooking.  The First Lady of Food, as she has been called, charmed the American public and the world with her joy of life and her passion for good food.

    Changing America’s attitude toward food and cooking was no easy task. In the early 20th century, America was taught that food was a science, not an art, by individuals such as cookbook writer Fannie Farmer and scientist Wilber Atwater, who defined what a calorie was by scientific testing.  World wars brought the need for greater food production and agriculture began to be scientifically engineered.   New innovations such as frozen food and convenience products swept the market.  By the late 1950’s, Americans were inundated with convenience products and cookbooks like Poppy Cannon’s The Can Opener Cookbook.

    This was the America Julia Child returned to after living Europe for more than a decade. While living in France, Julia found her passion for cooking and learned to love French food with all its rituals, techniques and history.  After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Julia joined with two French women to write a book for American audiences, one that would take the mystique out of French cooking.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in America in 1961.

    Mastering the Art of French Cooking has become one of the most influential cookbooks in America.  A recent Newsweek article stated that the book, which was published in 1961, “begat our current era of the Food Network, Top Chef’ and a ‘food writing’ (as opposed to plain old cooking section) in bookstores.”   Even the layout of the book was innovative. The pages were displayed in columns with ingredients and utensils listed in one column with directions alongside.  And the recipes told the reader which pot or pan to use. The photographs, taken by Julia’s husband Paul, were considered to be pioneering because they were taken over the cook’s shoulder, giving the reader the cook’s perspective.

    Mastering the Art of French Cooking has become one of the most influential cookbooks in America.  A recent Newsweek article stated that the book, which was published in 1961, “begat our current era of the Food Network, Top Chef’ and a ‘food writing’ (as opposed to plain old cooking section) in bookstores.”   Even the layout of the book was innovative. The pages were displayed in columns with ingredients and utensils listed in one column with directions alongside.  And the recipes told the reader which pot or pan to use. The photographs, taken by Julia’s husband Paul, were considered to be pioneering because they were taken over the cook’s shoulder, giving the reader the cook’s perspective.

    It is impossible to overstate the importance of this book. According to joepastry.com, a web blog on the history of food, Mastering the Art of French Cooking bridged the gap between the professional kitchen and home cook.  Prior to its publication, opportunities to learn to cook at home were limited. Julia’s book made formal French cooking understandable and achievable.  As the web blog states, “It was in a word, a watershed.” Today, Americans are passionate about the art of cooking at home and this could not have happened without Julia Child.

    Of course, Julia Child’s book had another, more immediate influence.  When Paul Child retired from diplomatic service, the couple moved home to America and Julia promoted the cookbook. In 1963, appeared as a guest on a public television station in Boston. On a whim, she thought that the interview might be more interesting if she demonstrated her cooking, so she whipped up an omelet on camera.  The producers didn’t expect this, but loved the results. In 1963, she began her a television career that would span the next three decades and earn her a Peabody award (the highest award given for journalism) in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966.

    Today, American cuisine is in an exciting phase.  Regional traditions, fresh and local ingredients, and creative chefs offer Americans an opportunity to enjoy New American Cuisine. There were many chefs, cooks, writers, editors and other professionals that helped to create a food revolution in America. But, no one would dispute that Julia Child was one of the most important people to influence the incredible change that has swept the nation.  Her cookbooks, television shows, and activism to bring national respect to the profession of cooking helped to influence a generation of Americans, making her one of the most important innovators of the era. Her energy and vitality changed the world with a hearty, “Bon Appétit!

    • Jan 15, 1902 – Paul and Charlie Child born (twins)
    • Aug 15, 1912 – Born Julia McWilliams in Pasadena, CA, eldest of three
    • Jun 13, 1942 – OSS is established. Julia is a research assistant for the Office of Strategic Servicesent on assignment to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Met Paul Child
    • Sep 1946 – Marries Paul Child.
    • Fall 1948 – Paul assigned to the U.S. Information Service at the American Embassy in Paris, the Childs moved to France
    • Sep 1949 – Enrolled at Cordon Bleu
    • Sep 1952 – Started working on The Book with Simca and Louisette.
    • Feb 1956 – Famous Valentine of Julia and Paul in the bathtub
    • May 1961 – Paul retires from government service, they move to Cambridge, MA
    • Oct 16, 1961Mastering the Art of French Cooking published. Considered a groundbreaking work and has become a standard guide for the culinary community.
    • Jun 18, 1963 – WGBH filmed first three pilots of The French Chef, establishing Julia as a local celebrity. Soon The French Chef syndicated to 96 PBS stations.
    • Spring 1965 – Receives both the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award and an Emmy.
    • Thanksgiving 1966 – Cover of Time Magazine
    • Feb,1968 – Lump in her breast, radical mastectomy
    • 1970 – Honored by the Confrerie d Ceres in France for her French bread recipe
    • 1979 – Guest on “Today Show” with Jacques Pepin – cut her hand rather badly with a knife – later needed stitches. Dan Aykroyd’s parodies this on “Saturday Night Live.”
    • 1980 – ABC’s “Good Morning America” – first regular commitment to commercial TV –2 ½ minutes cooking segments.
    • 1981 – Purchased a third home in California, where she will eventually retire. Given credit for revolutionizing restaurant eating in Santa Barbara
    • 1989 – After Paul suffers a series of strokes – he finally goes to a nursing home
    • 1992 – Julia turns 80 – 300 birthday parties given. At NY party, Boston Pops played music on pots, pans and whisks.
    • 1992 – Works with Boston University to create degree in Master of Liberal Arts with a concentration in Gastronomy
    • June 10, 1993 – Honorary doctorate from Harvard
    • May 12, 1994 – Paul dies – coronary artery disease listed as cause of death
    • Nov 2000 – Julia receives France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur
    • Aug, 2002 – Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History unveiled an exhibit featuring Julia’s kitchen
    • Aug 13, 2004 – Julia dies at home in Santa Barbara, CA; 2 days before 92nd birthday

    “I was 32 when I started cooking. Up until then, I just ate.”

    “A party without cake is just a meeting.”

    “I think every woman should have a blowtorch.”

    “People who love to eat are always the best people.”

    “It is hard to imagine a civilization without onions.”

    “With enough butter, anything is good.”

    “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”

    “Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”

    “I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food…”

    “Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you’ll have a marvelous time!”

    “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.

    “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”

    “It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate — you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”

    “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

    Child quoting Oscar Wilde: “everything in moderation . . . including moderation.”

    Books about Julia Child:

    Barr, Nancy Verde.  Backstage with Julia: My Years with Julia Child. NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2007.

    * Child, Julia and Alex Prud’homme. My Life in France. NY: Knopf, 2006.

    * Fitch, Noel Riley. Julia Child: Appetite for Life. NY: Doubleday, 1997.

    * McIntosh, Elizabeth P.  Sisterhood of Spies: Women of the OSS. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1998.

    * Shapiro, Laura. Julia Child.  NY: Penguin Lives, 2007.

    * Spitz, Bob. Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child. New York: Vintage Books, 2013.

    Cookbooks by Julia Child:   

    * Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I and II

    * The French Chef Cookbook

    * From Julia Child’s Kitchen

    Julia Child and Company

    Julia Child and More Company

    * The Way to Cook

    Cooking with Master Chefs

    In Julia Child’s Kitchen with Master Chefs

    * Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home

    * Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom

    Julia Child: Home Cooking with Master Chefs    (CD-ROM)

    * Books available in the Greenville Library System