The First Lady of Public Television

PBS Food asks chef Jasper White, of Summer Shacks Restaurants, about his time with Julia Child on the show, “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs.” In the midst of the Julia Child 100th Birthday Celebration, White pays tribute to her legacy.

What was it like working with Julia Child?

Working with Julia was a great honor and thrill for me – one of the highlights of my career. At the time I did understand the importance of doing a segment on this show; everything Julia did would become culinary history and would have a permanence unlike any other TV I had done. That said, working with Julia was like being with Julia. We were friends. Julia didn’t change for the camera. I was very comfortable with her and felt at home in her kitchen, a place I had cooked in several times before. One of the dishes planned for the show, my pan-roasted lobster, required the lobster to be cut up alive. This was controversial because just a few months prior Katie Couric had screamed when a lobster was cooked on her show – setting off the animal rights contingent. We discussed ways to avoid this but, but Julia decided that it had to be included in the cooking lesson. You see, although Julia was very (naturally) entertaining, her goal was to teach. We filmed all day, no detail was too small for Julia not to inquire about. Like all great teachers, she was a learner with an insatiable appetite for knowledge. It was a beautiful day and I will always treasure the memory.

What do you believe is Julia Child’s lasting legacy?

I believe that Julia’s legacy is 3 fold: 1. She was a writer, a teacher whose books have become classics – the recipes are impeccable. 2. Before Julia, PBS was just a bunch of guys with bowties… she made public television fun… she created a new kind of Public television. She is the First Lady of public TV. 3. Using TV and Books, Julia led the charge and awakened America’s passion for great food. She smashed the old Home Economics mentality that dealt with cooking as a chore to be done efficiently. She changed the game. She played a large role in helping the culinary arts in America, which had be lagging way behind the other arts, blossom and mature.

What was the impact of appearing on “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs?”

I don’t know – it’s really hard to tell after 40 years. What I do know is that she was a great friend. I loved her and I miss her.

Watch Julia Child and Jasper White

About Jasper White

In 1983, Jasper and his wife opened Jasper’s Restaurant on Boston’s historic waterfront. Both Chef and restaurant received numerous awards and were featured extensively in national and local media. In May 2000, Jasper opened Jasper White’s Summer Shack, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Cambridge restaurant has spawned two more Summer Shacks at Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Connecticut and Boston’s Back Bay.