Here's How Much Julia Child Initially Made For Each Episode Of The French Chef

Julia Child first appeared as a guest in a book review program for educational TV called "I've Been Reading." But when she showed WGBH audiences how to cook an omelet live, she struck a chord with viewers, and a star was born. From the moment she first appeared as the star of her own show, viewers knew they were seeing something different in the budding television chef. A cooking program had never been done before, and her very presence TV made viewers take a second look because — as her old friends and co-workers point out in the documentary "Julia" — most of the women on television during the early 1960s were considered props, and hardly called any attention to themselves.

Of course, because a show like "The French Chef" was revolutionary, WGBH couldn't divert too many resources into putting it together. Julia herself recalls that "when we started 'The French Chef,' I was paid 50 dollars per show," adding that the program was seen as an "experiment." In the documentary, her producer Russ Morash recalls being given a shoestring budget with no studio (they borrowed a demonstration kitchen from the local gas company) and no editors, which meant the show needed to be done in as few takes as possible. Mistakes were left in, and it was later found that those cooking errors made Julia more appealing to her audiences.

It all began with Julia Child

It is difficult to imagine today's celebrity chefs agreeing to work for $50 a show. Guy Fieri, who is the Food Network's highest-paid personality, recently scored a three-year contract worth $80 million. Even before then, he was bringing home a reported $1,000 per episode. Ina Garten and Ree Drummond are some of the wealthiest Food Network stars, and both earn roughly $50 million for "Barefoot Contessa" and "The Pioneer Woman," respectively. But even from today's stars, there is the recognition that without the hard work of the woman who agreed to work for what sounds like a pittance ($50 is roughly $437 when adjusted for inflation, per Dollar Times), none of them would be where they are today. 

PBS cooking star Marcus Samuelsson paid tribute to Julia Child in the documentary, saying that she "really paved the way for this incredible movement of food and pop culture, making this domestic profession something extremely popular." Elsewhere, Garten acknowledged that she wouldn't be where she was without "The French Chef." "A lot of us write cookbooks and do TV as Julia did. But she got the train out of the station," Garten said.