Last Updated on January 26, 2024

“Julia Child: A Recipe for Life” will make its only East Coast stop on a national tour at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture (VMHC) from March 16 through September 2, 2024. The exhibition will feature video, audio, photographs, memorabilia, recreated scenes from the chef’s life and a special section exclusive to VMHC that highlights Julia Child’s impact on generations of Virginians.

Child is renowned for bringing French cuisine to the United States through her 1961 cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and acclaimed cooking show “The French Chef,” which began its long run in 1963. Child had a transformative impact on food culture in the United States. This exhibition reveals the charismatic, tenacious and authentic woman whose lust for life inspired the same in others.

Following service with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, Child moved to Paris, where she lived with her husband, Paul, and studied at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. There, she found power in cooking and sought to teach others the craft to empower themselves.

About the Julia Child Exhibition

Julia Child demonstrating a frosting technique, with Merida
Julia Child demonstrating a frosting technique, with Merida. 1970. Photography by Paul Child © The Schlesinger Library, Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

The exhibition at VMHC invites visitors to immerse themselves in interactive spaces made famous through Child’s work. A re-creation of “The French Chef” television studio set and dining room invites visitors to see the cooking show from Child’s point of view and star in their own culinary production. A vintage camera in the space allows visitors to experience how the crew captured footage for the iconic television program.

Photographs in the exhibition chronicle Child’s career and relationship with her husband, who captured beautiful images that documented their lives together. Visitors can also recreate one of the couple’s well-known photos that appeared on an iconic Valentine’s Day card.

To Child, food was best enjoyed as an experience which coalesced around the dining table. Throughout the exhibition, tables are set to represent different periods of Child’s life, each activated by food, scents, books and letters. Visitors are immersed in the sights and sounds of Paris, the city Child came to love and the place that inspired her remarkable culinary career.

A re-creation of La Couronne, the restaurant in Normandy where she had her first French meal, offers an intimate glimpse into how eating sole meunière sparked her passion for the cuisine.

Among the many distinctive characteristics that made Child incomparable was her voice. Her expressive timbre and elocution captivated audiences through their television screens and brings the subject of the exhibition to life.

A larger-than-life version of the book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” greets visitors as they arrive in a space dedicated to Child’s writing and tools of the trade. They will learn about the meticulous work put into the writing and testing of each recipe, the team who made it possible and the triumph of publishing a revolutionary cookbook.

Concluding the exhibition, letters from fans across the country and world are displayed next to personal “Dear Julia” notes added by visitors to the exhibition. After contributing their written words, guests can take photos in some of Child’s most famous scenes.

To make the exhibition unique at VMHC and bring in further connections to the people of Virginia, special displays throughout the Museum will highlight Julia’s connections to the state and the influence of French cooking in Virginia’s culinary history.    

“Julia Child: A Recipe for Life” is a touring exhibition produced and managed by Flying Fish, developed in collaboration with Napa Valley Museum, under the rights granted by The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and Culinary Arts and Schlesinger Library, Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University and is generously supported by Oceania Cruises. The exhibition’s visit to the VMHC is made possible with generous funds provided by presenting sponsor Performance Food Group.

About Virginia Museum of History & Culture

The Virginia Museum of History & Culture is the only institution dedicated to presenting the entire history of Virginia over time and across regions. Its nationally significant collection of more than nine million objects, renowned research library, galleries and public programs demonstrate the centrality of Virginia to the narrative of the United States. 

The VMHC is owned and operated by the Virginia Historical Society — a private, non-profit organization established in 1831. The historical society is the oldest cultural organization in Virginia and one of the oldest and most distinguished history organizations in the nation.

About Flying Fish

Flying Fish, a world-renowned producer of touring museum and science center exhibitions, works with many of the world’s preeminent institutions to effectively facilitate the production and distribution of exhibitions from museum to museum across borders and overseas.

Flying Fish brings ideas, collections and exhibitions to life through conceptualizing, designing, fabricating and traveling these exhibitions throughout the world. Their finished products have made an impact on millions of lives world-over — bringing awe, inspiration and education to people of all ages around the world. Learn more at www.flyingfishexhibits.com.

About The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts

Julia Child and production crew at Cambridge Electric Kitchen.
Julia Child and production crew at Cambridge Electric Kitchen. 1963. Photography by Paul Child © The Schlesinger Library, Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts was created by Julia Child in 1995 and became operational in 2004. Its mission is to honor and further Child’s legacy, which centers on the importance of understanding where food comes from, what makes for good food and the value of cooking.

Learn more at www.juliachildfoundation.org.  

Author