When Julia Child‘s The French Chef first hit screens in the early 1960s, America’s food TV landscape looked a lot different than it does today. But amid our insatiable appetite to see chefs get chopped or chastised with British-accented insults, apparently there’s still room for the cheery, enthusiasm of Child in reality television as today. Food Network just announced a new competition series titled The Julia Child Challenge that will premier next month.
“Each episode features two rounds of competitive cooking: the first-round masters the basics and challenges the competitors to recreate one of Julia’s signature dishes, with some guidance from Julia herself, as seen on a giant television screen in the middle of the action,” the series description reads. “Round two is an ode to Julia, where competitors must take inspiration from Julia to create a unique dish reflecting their own culinary point of view.” Of course, it’s a competition, so there must be eliminations. “Based on performance, the judges name one winner and send one competitor home each week, until the last cook standing is awarded the ultimate grand prize.”
And what’s a grand prize that would actually earn Julia Child’s stamp of approval? How about an all-expenses-paid, three-month cooking course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
The eight competing home cooks are all described as Julia Child superfans, and will “share personal stories about their hero, cook in a kitchen recreated in the likeness of where Julia herself cooked, using the same ingredients Julia used.” The announcement also cites that the production worked “in conjunction with The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts to ensure this series reflects Julia’s incredible talent and heart.”
Critiquing their skills and dishes will be head judge and Top Chef veteran Antonia Lofaso with a rotating cast of guest judges, including Molly Baz, Stephanie Boswell, Alvin Cailan, Cliff Crooks, Susan Feniger, Dorie Greenspan, Melissa King, Francis Lam, Nilou Motamed, Jacques Pepin, Michael Voltaggio, Brooke Williamson, and Sherry Yard.
“Julia Child is a culinary hero to cooks everywhere — her love of food and sense of humor set the tone for this one-of-a-kind competition. From the kitchen set to Julia’s own words, the level of detail in each episode can only be described as mind-blowing,” Courtney White, President, Food Network and Streaming Food Content, Discovery Inc., said. “At the same time, the series is also very intimate, with competitors sharing their personal food journeys and how Julia Child changed their lives, we cannot wait for viewers to experience this show.”
Beyond her tenure on television and popular cookbooks, Child’s life and legacy have become popular topics of exploration in recent years. Dating back, at least, to the 2005 book — and, later, 2009 Meryl Streep film — titled Julie & Julia, multiple projects have emerged about the culinary icon’s impact including a 2021 documentary, a PBS series revisiting classic episodes of her cooking show, and a forthcoming HBO dramatic miniseries. There was even talk of a project about her pre-chef career in espionage.
The Julia Child Challenge airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. on Food Network beginning March 14.