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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Cooks > Cooking > Julia Child! The French Chef (Documentary/Cooking Set)

Julia Child!  The French Chef (Documentary/Cooking Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+/C     Extras: C+     Collection: B+



WGBH has issued DVD sets of Julia Child before, but the twist with this very similarly titled Julia Child!  The French Chef 3-DVD set is that the first disc is a terrific documentary about her life from the great American Masters series.  Like all the amazing installments in this exceptional documentary show, it begins with her birth, goes to her childhood and how it shaped her, then to how she became a legend.


A great must-see show, it is presented here in 1.33 X 1 framing and the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is stereo and better than the regular shows.  Titled “Julia! America’s Favorite Chef” from 2004 (running one hour), it shows what an amazing life she had going from housewife to food icon.  We se her influence by the end, but she broke open the idea of food to a few simple things to everything and that “New Food Wave” continues as we speak.  It might also be arguable that she rode the counterculture wave with her unbelievable energy that proves the power of positive change is not as hard as it might seem.  Why, she truly is The Beatles of food.


The two other discs are from her long-running French Chef series and include the same format of starters/side dishes, main courses and desserts.  Disc 2 includes her making Petits Fours, which are cakes (sometimes in layers) dipped in a flavored glaze (chocolate, vanilla) and even further glazing on the top.  The show is one of her early black and white shows.  She had the time, especially with no commercials, to take her time and make it like any other dish on the show.  A more quiet time for TV (and media in general), she is on the set alone and the idea at the time now lost to most audiences is that it was supposed to be like you were visiting her.


You were being let into her kitchen to see something amazing and like nothing that had been on TV before.  It was above simple recipes or cooking and certainly not TV dinners.  It was from a time that TV was envisioned as a medium that would revolutionize the world for the better with free education and prosperity for all before the 1980s ruined everything and cable made TV a new kind of wasteland.  Ironically, it was that kind of TV that ultimately became the architectural model for the Internet and people like Child should get some credit for that.  The world may seem to want to go faster and everything is rushed, but good food is never one of them and ultimately, it is in this spirit in which Child’s triumph will be forever.


The 1.33 X 1 image on the episodes vary throughout, but are as good as they are going to get.  Some are monochrome, others in color.  Like the previous sets, the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono reflects the sometimes too-quiet manner of the recordings, along with some slight compression, but the low volume is from early bad TV audio standards.  Be careful when turning the volume up and switching from DVD to another audio source.


In a final note, it is mentioned in the documentary that it would be Politically Incorrect today to call her “The French Chef” since she was not French.  Once again, this is absurd, since it was not about her being French but the kind of cuisine she was making.  PC shows its shallow idiocy again.  Fortunately, Child was above all that and we should follow her example.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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