Mar 15, 2024 - Things to Do

An exhibit about Julia Child is opening in Richmond

A giant pic of Julia Child with the name of the exhbit

"Julia Child: A Recipe for Life" runs through early Sept. Photo: Karri Peifer/Axios

An exhibition about Julia Child — the chef, author and TV personality who made French cuisine approachable for Americans — opens Saturday at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

Why it matters: Child had a profound influence on American food culture that ultimately transformed the country's culinary scene.

The big picture: Richmond is the first of only two East Coast stops for the traveling exhibition, "Julia Child: A Recipe for Life." It's dedicated to exploring Child's life and legacy. Highlights include:

  • Colorful images from Child's life.
  • Handwritten recipes and notes.
  • Clips from her long-running show, "The French Chef."
  • And an 8-foot-tall digital copy of her book,"Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
A dining table in front of a big pic of a french restaurant
Each course of the Childs' meal appears on the plates. Photo: Karri Peifer/Axios

Plus, interactive installations allow visitors to:

  • Experience a meal at La Couronne, the restaurant where Child had her first French meal.
  • Recreate moments from Child's life, like her and husband Paul's famous bathtub Valentine card.
  • Try their hand at wine pairings.
  • And stand in (and work the camera) a replica "The French Chef" set.
Karri and chef David Shannon in a bathub
Axios Richmond's Karri Peifer with L'Opossum chef / owner David Shannon. It was his idea. Photo: Paige Newman/VMHC

Worthy of your time: Child's visits to Virginia are highlighted in the exhibit, plus installations on some of the local culinary powerhouses she influenced, including:

  • Jimmy Sneed, the chef and owner of the now-closed Frog and the Redneck.
  • David Shannon, chef and owner of L'Opossum.
  • Tanya Cauthen, owner of Belmont Butchery.

Zoom in: Child's influence on American cuisine extends to inspiring many of Virginia's most celebrated chefs.

Were it not for Julia Child, chef and owner Patrick O'Connell likely never would've opened The Inn at Little Washington, the award-winning restaurant in a small Virginia mountain town.

  • The self-taught chef honed his craft by cooking his way through Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." By 1974, he was a struggling caterer in that town when he had a chance to meet Child. Her passion and a few words of kindness gave him all the confidence he needed to keep at it.
  • Four years later, he'd open the Inn. Child became a frequent diner and a suite is named in her honor.

Today, The Inn at Little Washington is one of only 13 three-Michelin-star restaurants in the country.

  • And the stove where O'Connell once cooked Child's recipes opens the "Julia Child: A Recipe for Life" exhibit at the Virginia museum.
Patrick Oconnell stands in front of his stove
Inn at Little Washington owner Patrick O'Connell in front of an installation about him. Photo: Karri Peifer/Axios

If you go: "Julia Child: A Recipe for Life" runs through Sept. 2 at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

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