Julia Child's Husband Paul Was Integral To Her Cooking Career

"Not everybody realizes that Paul and I are a team.”

by Justice Namaste
Originally Published: 
Celebrity chef Julia Child and her husband Paul Child at their home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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HBO Max’s new series Julia traces the rise of beloved cook and television personality Julia Child. Central to her journey is her husband, Paul Child, who fans of Julia may be familiar with from the many photographs he took of his wife over the years, as well as his wholehearted support of her career.

Julia (neé McWilliams) met Paul in 1944 while they were both stationed at the Office of Strategic Services in what is now Sri Lanka. The two worked a couple of desks apart and became friends, bonding during visits to local food markets and eventually starting a romantic relationship. Later in his life, Paul spoke about falling in love with Julia. “It wasn’t like lightning striking the barn on fire. I just began to think, my God, this is a hell of a nice woman,” he said, per The New Yorker.

Paul was born in Montclair, New Jersey in 1902, 10 years Julia’s senior. When he was six months old, his father passed away, and his family moved to Boston. He spent two years attending Columbia University but dropped out before getting his degree, and after a brief stint living in Paris, eventually took a job as an educator at a boarding school in southwestern France. It wasn’t long before Paul was back in New England, where he continued to teach for many years before being offered a position as an exhibits officer for the United States Information Service. This took him back overseas — and led him to Julia. The two were married in 1946. Soon afterward, Paul’s work sent them to Paris for five years — a period during which Julia fell in love with cooking and French cuisine and began her fledgling career.

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After Paul retired in 1961 — the same year Julia published her first cookbook — the couple moved to Cambridge, where he ended up dedicating a great deal of his time and energy to supporting his wife’s work. He notably helped design a kitchen in their new home that would meet Julia’s cooking needs and be comfortable for her 6’2” frame. He also helped to design the dining tables and sets of her television show The French Chef, and took photographs for her cookbooks. “Paul Child, the man who is always there: porter, dishwasher, official photographer, mushroom dicer and onion chopper, editor, fish illustrator, manager, taster, idea man, resident poet, and husband,” Julia wrote of her husband in her second book The French Chef Cookbook.

As reported by Town & Country, Paul was content to stay in the background while Julia took centerstage. She considered him an equal partner in her cooking endeavors, and “was careful to use ‘we’ rather than ‘I’” when talking about her career. "Not everybody realizes that Paul and I are a team. We work together on developing menus and dishes,” she once said, later reflecting that they, “had a happy marriage because [they] were together all the time."

Paul was also a poet who frequently wrote about Julia; his work was included in a later biography of her. He passed away at 92 on May 12, 1994 following a long illness; Julia passed away a decade later.

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