Weekends with Yankee: Finding Julia Child

Yankee senior food editor and Weekends with Yankee cohost Amy Traverso recounts her first brush with culinary legend Julia Child, and shares her thoughts on why Julia’s enduring influence — especially on female chefs in the Boston food scene — was an important story to tell in the series’ season five debut episode.

I’ll never forget the day I spoke to Julia Child. I was working for Boston magazine as a lowly editorial assistant tasked with calling her assistant to extend an invitation for a gathering of influential Bostonians. I called the number on file and nearly fell off my chair when I was greeted with a bright and familiar voice warbling, “Hel-LO!” By God, it was Julia Child answering her own phone! I stammered my way through the invitation, and I believe she did call me “dearie” before hanging up.

Sadly, I never did get to meet Julia in person, but her presence continues to animate the New England food scene. Many of our chefs can describe ways in which she directly or indirectly shaped their careers. So it made sense that for Weekends with Yankee, which we produce in partnership with Julia’s home station of WGBH, we should retrace some of her footsteps through Cambridge and Boston.

In the season five premiere episode of “Weekends with Yankee,” cohost Amy Traverso follows in the footsteps of culinary legend Julia Child.
Photo Credit : Weekends with Yankee/WGBH

We began at her home on Irving Street, whose interior has been renovated beyond recognition but whose exterior looks much as it did when Julia and Paul Child hosted their famous parties there. Just a short walk away is Savenor’s, Julia’s favorite market, where I met up with owner Ron Savenor, who remembers carrying Julia’s packages for her as a young boy helping out his father, Jack (remembered by many for his appearances on The French Chef, where he served as an occasional butchery expert). I was also joined by chef Lydia Shire, a Boston culinary legend who was Julia’s friend and protégé, and who shared with me stories of being discovered by Julia as the first female head chef at Maison Robert, being taken under Julia’s wing, and enjoying a friendship that lasted decades. Whenever Julia visited Lydia’s restaurants, she always ordered Lydia’s signature take on roasted duck. It was the last dish Julia ate in Boston before moving back to her home state of California, and it was this same dish that Lydia prepared for me.

In addition to Weekends with Yankee, you can find Amy cooking some of Julia’s classic recipes in the WGBH digital video series You & Julia.