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Famed TV Chef, Cookbook Author Julia Child Dies At 91 - 2004-08-13

America's "Queen of French Cuisine," Julia Child, died Friday August 13 in Montecito, California, at the age of 91. She had been suffering from a kidney ailment and died in her sleep. Ms. Child was known to millions as the warble-voiced "French Chef" on American public television, and as the author of several best-selling books that de-mystified French cooking.

Julia Child was an institution even among people who hate to cook, and a heroine to millions of bewildered Americans eager to learn the art of preparing fine meals in their own kitchens.

Through her many best-selling cookbooks including the classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and through nearly three decades as the host of "The French Chef," and other television cooking shows, Julia Child promoted the idea that practically anyone can learn to cook.

"I think you have to like the 'how-to' of things," he said. "You have to like 'how to make things with your hands.' I think those things are very important because there is a great deal of manual dexterity involved, and particularly (you have to have) the enjoyment of food as an art form."

In recent years, Ms. Child promoted the study of food and cooking, helping to found the American Institute of Wine and Food in San Francisco. Keeping up with current concerns about high-fat foods such as the butter and cream popular in French cooking- she urged Americans to continue enjoying rich foods but to eat more moderate portions.

Two years ago, Ms. Child moved from her house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Santa Barbara, California. She donated her private kitchen to the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History in Washington, D.C, which installed it intact with more than 1200 of her well-used utensils.

Julia McWilliams Child never planned to become a cook. When she was born in 1912 in Pasadena, California, her parents employed a cook, so Julia seldom even saw the kitchen in thehouse where she grew up. After graduating from prestigious Smith College in Massachusetts, she was a copy writer for several years until the outbreak of the Second World War, when she joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, hoping to be a spy. Instead she was posted as a file clerk to Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, where she met her husband, Paul Child, an American Foreign Service officer.

After World War II, Paul Child was assigned to Paris. It was there that Julia Child discovered what she once described as "the intoxicating experience" of French food. She enrolled in the famed Cordon Bleu cooking school, then opened her own. In 1961 she and two French women collaborators published "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," the book that established her reputation.

Shortly afterward, she began her award-winning public television series, "The French Chef." The show took the mystery out of French cooking by showing viewers how to adapt the French style to American utensils, and how to use foods from American supermarkets. Audiences loved her classic style and dry wit.

She ended each of her cooking shows by bearing her completed dish like rubies on velvet to the dining room table, and delivering her trademark signoff: "This is Julia Child. Bon appetit!"