Julia Child's Unexpected Relationship With The LGBTQ Community

Julia Child, the OG celebrity chef responsible for bringing French food to the U.S. via "The French Chef," was a homophobe. Sadly, it's true; the godmother of cooking shows had a history of using homophobic slurs and (allegedly) blackballed a gay chef from working in the non-profit organization she helped create, "American Institute of Food and Wine" (she settled the $3 million lawsuit). In an article by Boston Magazine, "Just a Pinch of Prejudice," in 2007, it was discovered that America's beloved cooking icon was casually throwing around terms like homo and pansy, pedal and pedalo (the French slang for a homosexual).

In Europe, the culinary profession was reputable and dominated by males, where Child spent years trying to win their respect. By contrast, in the U.S., the chef was dismissed by most "masculine men" who left the kitchen to housewives. After Child's experience in France, you may think she was a culinary feminist, wanting to prove that women not only belonged in the field but that they excelled at it. Instead, Child embraced the French belief that men were naturally better in the kitchen, and women were easily intimidated and panicky. Child, being afraid the profession would be defined by homosexuality, urged male friends in the industry to help with the "de-fagification" of the field, despite "fags" buying her cookbooks.

Despite her beliefs, Child had several meaningful relationships with homosexual men, including James Beard, for whom the cooking award is named, and her longtime lawyer, Bob Johnson, relationships explored in a new documentary about the legend.

Julia Child's relationship with the LGBTQ community

On May 30, "Julia," a documentary celebrating the legacy of Julia Child, premiered on CNN. Using Child's diaries and correspondence, the film celebrates her achievements and the trailblazer she was for women and professional cooking. However, the documentary didn't whitewash the ugly truth about how she referenced and regarded the LGBTQ community.

Briefly, in the documentary, Child's ignorance and rigid view of sex and marriage are focused on. Writer and creator Daniel Goldfarb questions whether her relationship with Beard changed the way Child felt. The mutual respect and commonalities of these two people — both over six feet tall, with distinctive voices and commanding presence — formed a genuine friendship which they nicknamed "Jiji," for Julia and Jim. In 1985, after 24 years of friendship, Child and other chefs purchased the townhouse Beard resided in until his death and established the James Beard Foundation, a center for all things food, with the excitement and enjoyment Beard brought to the art.

In the 1980s, AIDS, dubbed "the gay disease," took many lives, including her friend and lawyer, Bob Johnson, triggering a complete shift in Child's conservative social norms. Child, realizing the indecency of the disease, capitalized on her celebrity to bring awareness to AIDS while raising money for research and advocating for drugs and healthcare. Child put her reputation and career on the line, hosting benefits and speaking out when other celebrities weren't, especially those whose fan base resided in the Midwest. Although Child died in 2004, we are still learning who she was and the extent her influence had on the culinary field and in our homes.