Saturday, May 20, 2017

"The French Chef in America" by Alex Prud'homme

As someone who has spent countless hours watching Baking with Julia and Julia & Jacques: Cooking at Home, I jumped at the chance to review The French Chef in America: Julia Child's Second Act.

The enchanting story of Julia Child's years as TV personality and beloved cookbook author—a sequel in spirit to My Life in France—by her great-nephew 

Julia Child is synonymous with French cooking, but her legacy runs much deeper. Now, her great-nephew and My Life in France coauthor vividly recounts the myriad ways in which she profoundly shaped how we eat today. He shows us Child in the aftermath of the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, suddenly finding herself America's first lady of French food and under considerable pressure to embrace her new mantle. We see her dealing with difficult colleagues and the challenges of fame, ultimately using her newfound celebrity to create what would become a totally new type of food television. Every bit as entertaining, inspiring, and delectable as My Life in France, The French Chef in America uncovers Julia Child beyond her "French chef" persona and reveals her second act to have been as groundbreaking and adventurous as her first.

The French Chef in America is a fascinating look at Julia Child's later years. Most of it is centered around Julia's relationships—with Simca Beck, her Mastering the Art of French Cooking co-author; with chefs James Beard and Jacques Pépin; with PBS, the home of many of her cooking shows. The book paints a compelling picture of a fascinating woman.

As the book is so focused on Julia's relationships, it doesn't always go in chronological order. It's not necessarily a problem, but I did find it a bit difficult to follow at times. (This is probably largely due to the fact that I was listening on audiobook during my drive to and from church—my one long drive of the week. Had I been reading the book, I could have easily flipped back and refreshed my memory as to where I was.) One chapter would end in the late 1990's, and the next would begin in the 1970's. It just took some re-orienting at times to get back into the flow of the story.

While I liked learning about Julia's later career, I especially enjoyed discovering her connections to current chefs like Sara Moulton (the first chef I ever watched on Food Network back in the early 2000s) and Emeril Lagasse, as well as learning more about her relationship with Jacques Pépin. Also, the author goes into great detail regarding Julia's methods for developing and testing recipes, and I found the whole process fascinating.

The audiobook is read by Alex Prud'homme, the author and great-nephew of Julia's husband Paul. As I listened, it really felt like I was sitting with Prud'homme as he told stories about Julia's life. It made for an incredibly enjoyable listening experience.

I recommend this book to anyone who remembers watching Julia's cooking shows or who just enjoys a good biography. 4 stars.

Buy the book.

Alex Prud'homme is Julia Child’s great-nephew and the coauthor of her autobiography, My Life in France, which was adapted into the movie Julie & Julia. He is also the author of The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Freshwater in the Twenty-First Century, Hydrofracking: What Everyone Needs to Know, and The Cell Game, and he is the coauthor (with Michael Cherkasky) of Forewarned: Why the Government Is Failing to Protect Us–and What We Must Do to Protect Ourselves. Prud’homme’s journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Time, and People.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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