The Truth About Julia Child's 14-Second French Omelet


Julia Child was one of the first — and best — celebrity chefs, managing to make preparing classical French cuisine look not only accessible but easy and fun. While she may have trained at Le Cordon Bleu, she was anything but snobbish. She wasn't afraid to be seen messing up on her cooking show and would even laugh at herself when anything went wrong. As unpretentious as she was, though, Child”s name is still seen as synonymous with haute cuisine and seldom mentioned in the same breath as fast food. Ironically, one of her most famous recipes purportedly takes just 14 seconds to prepare.

If you want to perfect the 14-second omelette, you might need to crack a few (dozen) eggs since omelette mistakes are surprisingly easy to make. For each omelette, heat a tablespoon of butter until it foams. Have two eggs all set to go, whisked together with salt and pepper. As the butter stops foaming, pour in the eggs and shake the pan to spread them over the bottom. Once the eggs have formed a solid layer, jerk the pan towards you several times to allow the eggs to fold in on themselves until they're all rolled up. If your eggs won't behave like Child's, wave an eggbeater around in a menacing manner to scare them into line. Should your eggs assume the proper position, toss them so that they're on the right side of the pan, and then roll them onto a plate and arrange them nicely for their Instagram close-up.

The Julia Child omelette challenge

Although Julia Child has been gone for quite a few years now (she passed away in 2004, two days before she would have turned 92), she lives on forever in the hearts of foodies as well as in their blog posts and YouTube videos. Child has even been the co-subject of the 2009 movie "Julie & Julia," which told the true(ish) story of a food writer who was inspired to devote a year of her life to recreating every one of the recipes in her iconic cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." More recently, another food writer was moved to spend somewhat less time — an entire 14 seconds, to be exact — making Child's classic French omelette, a dish so simple that it can go from pan to plate in under a quarter of a minute.

Instead of blogging about her omelette efforts, NYT food editor Emily Fleischaker did something very 20-teens by posting about it on Instagram and turning it into a challenge. She first shared a video clip of Julia Child making this omelet, then showed her own efforts (less polished and much more giggly) and tagged 15 of her friends to follow suit. Not too many of the comments on her post were from anyone saying they'd cooked this omelette successfully, but the challenge nevertheless went viral back in the early days of the 2020 lockdown.

Julia Child herself admitted that the omelette might take up to 20 seconds

If you still haven't mastered the art of making a perfect omelette in 14 seconds, don't feel too bad about it as even the Mistress of French Cooking may have needed an extra few seconds from time to time. Back in May of 1980, Julia Child appeared on "Good Morning, America" to show the host how to make her "magical" omelette. He remarked upon how quickly she makes it, and she replied "It only takes 20 seconds." It did, however, take her just about 14 seconds when she covered it on her own cooking show

Child also told "Good Morning America" viewers that speedy omelette-making requires the proper pan. Such a pan should have a long handle, sloping sides, a depth of about 2 inches, and a non-stick coating. As for the diameter, Child got very specific with this, advising that the pan should measure 10 inches across the top and 7 ½ across the bottom.

When it comes to technique, Child explained that it's all in the shaking or jerking motion. She had the host practice with a pan full of dried beans and told him that once the beans turned over in the pan, this would mean that he'd mastered the art of the proper pan jerk. He never quite caught on and ended up literally spilling the beans, but she told him to keep practicing at home and he assured her that he would.

Julia Child actually endorsed 2 different omelet-making techniques

The French-style omelette Child demonstrated on "Good Morning America" is one that requires, as she called it, a certain amount of "tour de main," which literally translates to "turn of hand" but is a French phrase meaning knack or skill. If your hand work is less dexterous (or sinister, should you be left-handed), one episode of the "The French Chef" shows Child endorsing what she calls an "equally professional method" that allows the use of a utensil.

In Child's slightly less challenging omelette-making method, you still shake the pan once you've poured in the eggs, but you also stir with a fork. The fork is then used to push the eggs to the side of the pan, at which point you'll perform a fork-free flip onto a waiting plate. Making this type of omelette, in case you're wondering, took Child a whopping 16 seconds.

As Child noted on her show, the French typically don't eat omelettes for breakfast (they don't call coffee and a croissant a continental breakfast for no reason) but instead view eggs as being more of a midday or evening thing. While such omelettes may be eaten plain, they could also be made with cheese or ham if you're willing to delay your meal by a few more seconds.