Historian Helen Horowitz On Julia Child's Failed Cordon Bleu Exam - Exclusive

If Julia Child received a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu, it was thanks to her instructor Chef Max Bugnard who — as Smithsonian notes — demanded she deserved it. Bugnard may never have intervened at all had Child not been that rare type who not only connected with people but also drew them, irrevocably, into her orbit. As author and historian Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz sifted through Child's letters and personal records, this facet to Child's allure is what "struck" her the most. 

"The way [that Child] bonded with people, the way they became her coworkers in a project," was extraordinary, Horowitz reflected exclusively to Mashed. Child bonded, too, with Chef Bugnard, Horowitz affirmed — in no large part because he gave Child private cooking lessons. As Horowtiz documents in her newly released book, "Warming Up Julia Child," Bugnard had, himself, trained under Auguste Escoffier. (Think of Escoffier as a Gordon Ramsay, squared.) The French chef rose to be the director of the Savoy Hotel and the Carlton Hotel in London, and was known, in his day, as the "the king of chefs and the chef of kings." 

That Bugnard taught Child well in the culinary arts needs no citation. Yet, when it came time for Child to take her Le Cordon Bleu exam in 1950, she ultimately failed. 

Julia Child's outrage at her cooking exam results

The Julia Child you recognize from "The French Chef" was passionate in her art. She was not, in any way, shape, or form hot-tempered. Certainly, the version of Julia Child that Sarah Lancashire gives us in the HBO series "Julia" is forceful. She is also composed. 

But when Child failed her Le Cordon Bleu exam she was irate. Child flunked — as Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz documents in her new book — because she failed to study the basics, assuming the institution would test her on complicated cooking techniques. "She was very angry," Horowitz explained to Mashed exclusively. "She hadn't practiced [the easy parts]. She practiced the hard parts ... Would you practice the scales when you were going to be tested or would you practice your recital music? It was that way with her. She did the hard stuff." Julia Child did not, for one moment, doubt her prowess. "She was really outraged because she knew how to do it, and she knew she was good. She knew because of the results," Horowitz affirmed. "Again, she was a woman who loved to eat, and that made a big difference."

Delve more into Julia Child's world and support network with Horowitz's book, "Warming Up Julia Child: The Remarkable Figures Who Shaped a Legend," available for purchase here