Chefs, farmers and foodies celebrate Julia Child
Santa Barbara Culinary Experience Combines Restaurant Week with Taste of SB Weekend
By Matt Kettmann & George Yatchisin | May 12, 2022
Julia Child is so sexy right now.
There’s a scripted series on HBO Max that just got renewed for a second season; a documentary by Oscar-nominated directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West; a cooking contest on Food Network/Discovery+ judged by celebrity chefs and restaurateurs; a podcast with over 150 episodes featuring top chefs, writers and food thinkers; and an increasingly impactful annual award given in his name at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
“Julia Child passed away nearly 18 years ago, but she still leaves behind an impressive ability to continue teaching Americans the joys of culinary pursuits,” said Eric Spivey, a longtime friend of Julia’s and president of the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and Cooking. Arts. “His literary and television career remains relevant and impactful for new generations of people.”
Santa Barbara County is where Julia spent most of her summers (in Pasadena), her winters (in Boston) and the last years of her life (at Casa Dorinda in Montecito), and now the famous region this link with the first “Taste of Santa Barbara”, which takes place from May 16 to 22. The event is hosted by the Santa Barbara Culinary Experience (SBCE), which was founded by Spivey and others in 2019 to be a sort of West Coast counterpart to the Julia Child Foundation.
The nonprofit’s first event was scheduled to take place in March 2020 on that fateful weekend when the country shut down due to the pandemic. “While deeply disappointing to everyone that we had to cancel the event, it gave us time to learn the power and limits of virtual events,” said Spivey, who has hosted a number of experiences. events in 2021. “It also gave us new insights to refine programming resulting in a broad and inclusive set of events for the whole community to enjoy.
That means Taste of SB 2022 weekend — which is combined with Santa Barbara Restaurant Week — is SBCE’s actual release party. It’s a mix of edible fun, with special dishes and drinks made to honor Julia and Paul Child all week; educational food, with a screening of documentaries on Fridays, food sustainability panels on Saturdays and farm tours on Sundays; and a good wine toast, with a dozen wineries lining up for the crowds at the Presidio on Sunday. Read on for more details, and kudos to Julia!
To see sbce.events for the full lineup, tickets and more.
– By Matt Kettmann
Prepare a new Julia
When Oscar-nominated directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West set out to make a documentary about the legendary Julia Child, they realized audiences thought they knew her. This meant that their goal was to have a tone that was, as Cohen puts it, “Not the same old same old.” People can find out how they made history new when their film Julia is screening as part of the Santa Barbara Culinary Experience’s Taste of Santa Barbara weekend on Friday, May 20 at 7 p.m. at SBCC’s Garvin Theater, with the directors on hand for a post-film Q&A.
Early on, chef Marcus Samuelsson, one of the fascinating early talking heads, called Child “the madonna of TV chefs,” a wacky comparison that’s also apt, as the two challenged what famous women could and had to do. Next, footage of a roast chicken plays on Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.” Of course, Child started his groundbreaking public TV show The French cook in the 1960s, but rocker Hendrix still seems from a very different world than the Pasadena-born patrician who serves beef bourguignon.
“It’s trial and error, finding the right song to use,” Cohen said in a recent Webex interview. “We tried it with Vivaldi, and we both looked at each other and immediately said, ‘No! “”When the Hendrix was tested, they knew they had landed on something to further capture Child’s subversive side. Cohen continued, “At one point, Hendrix sings, ‘Go ahead, baby,’ and we have that right when someone bastes the chicken….” West jumped in: “We liked it a lot.”
For their film, while providing a relatively traditional and engaging chronicle of Child’s astonishing life – a World War II stint in the OISS (precursor to the CIA); co-editing Master the art of French cuisine, arguably the first best-selling cookbook; does not become famous until after his 50th birthday, etc. — it is above all a love story. In fact, Julia’s marriage to Paul Child was one of the themes that drew Cohen and West the most to the project.
“We love making documentaries that are also date movies,” Cohen said (alluding to their previous success RBG). “Paul was such a Renaissance man, but he wasn’t the easiest guy in the world to deal with either, unless you were Julia Child.” The film vividly captures how he subsumes his own life to help support Julia as she becomes the world’s first food superstar and then manages to maintain that position for decades.
Cohen and West also very consciously work the food/sex metaphor, especially in a sequence capturing the making of pear pie which is delicious food porn. “Our food stylist, Susan Spungen, suggested the pears were particularly sexy,” West recalls, “and then our two filmmakers, Claudia Raschke in New York and Nanda Fernandez Brédillard in Paris, really leaned into the sexiness of those images. .” The pears are even paired with a tasteful nude of Julia in silhouette that Paul, a very talented photographer, took in their Paris apartment.
Given the wealth of primary sources — footage, photos, letters — Cohen and West had more than enough to work with to shape their film. But their archive team also unearthed never-before-seen footage, such as clips of Child appearing with Hugh Downs. Alas, given that she only lived in Montecito for the last three of her 91 years, the
the film does not deal with his time here. “The heart of the film is about what made Julia JuliaWest pointed out. “She did not become the French chef and did not rest on her laurels.”
The film highlights how, while denying that she was a feminist, Child lived an exemplary feminist life. In particular, she was a public supporter of Planned Parenthood to the point where the film shows anti-choice people protesting her appearances. “She risked her reputation; she didn’t just write a check,” West said. Cohen added: “In Julia’s time, she was one of the first to take such a public stance. Some of the celebrity activism you see now is thanks to her.
But Child might be the most groundbreaking for making America care about food again, teaching us to throw away TV dinner parties for what we learned from the lanky, enthusiastic, mistake-ready TV chef. Much of the documentary was created during the pandemic, and Cohen claimed, “We were reminded of how important and central it can be to have a good dining experience with the people you love in your own kitchen. It punctuated much of what Julia believed in. –Georges Yatchisin
Julia screenings at SBCC’s Garvin Theater on Friday, May 20 at 7 p.m., followed by a conversation with the directors.
Restaurant Week Returns
This year, Santa Barbara Restaurant Week is working in tandem with the Taste of SB event, but the basics have been similar since the promotion began in 2018: the more than 30 participating establishments offer set menus at $30, $40 and $50, alongside a few wineries that offer $20, $25, and $30 flight specials.
The big difference from previous years is that restaurants didn’t have to pay to be part of the campaign this year. “With our hospitality industry hit so hard by the pandemic, we wanted to make Restaurant Week as accessible as possible to all restaurants, as a way to shine the spotlight on as many people as possible, so that all fees were waived. so everyone can participate,” said Donna Yen, Executive Director of SBCE. “We hope this will encourage diners to explore new restaurants they’ve never tried before.”
To see sbrestaurantweeks.com.
Taste of Santa Barbara Wines @ El Presidio
To toast Santa Barbara County’s thriving wine industry, Taste of Santa Barbara hosts a dozen wineries in El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, located on the prominent corner of downtown from East Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara streets. Tasting stations from every sub-appellation in the county will be spread across the grounds, and there will be a series of panels inside the chapel throughout the afternoon to shed light on the people and the places behind these wines.
“The beauty and historic past of the Presidio is why we chose the venue to host Taste of Santa Barbara Wines, as part of the purpose of this event is to deepen the wine tasting experience with a storytelling component,” Yen said. “Guests will be able to hear the stories of these talented winemakers and learn about their unique journeys in winemaking.”
The event will take place on Sunday, May 22 from 1 to 4 p.m.
Dine Around Town with Julia & Cocktail Crawl with Paul
An ever-growing number of restaurants and bars are preparing food and drinks in honor of Julia and her cocktail-loving husband, Paul Child.
At last count, there were 16 participants registered, including the lamb’s ode to Barbareño’s pastor at Julia’s favorite Mexican spot in Milpas, La Super-Rica; Eye on I’s Coquilles Saint Jacques, a scallop dish that appears in his first book; Bossie’s Kitchen lost pain bread pudding with vanilla pastry cream; Test Pilot’s Carioca Quencher, with rum, lemon, apricot, honey and soda; and La Julia de Loquita, with gin, Lustau Blanco, celery bitters and lemon oil.
“We’re thrilled to see everyone getting creative here and think people will love seeing the different tributes all over town!” Yen said.
Discover the farms
For those looking to learn about where their food comes from, Taste of SB coordinates a number of farm and food production tours in Santa Barbara County, ranging from exploring the Rock Front Ranch in the Valley of Cuyama to learn about bread and wine production in Lompoc in Piedrasassi to pick blueberries and strawberries, visit a regenerative farm and see how a downtown soup kitchen works. Most tours take place on Sunday, May 22 and cost $25, but see sbce.events/visits-of-regional-farms for more details.