It’s nostalgic to see amateur cooks tackling the work of Julia Child, but this “challenge” annoys me too

It’s cooking tech week on “The Julia Child Challenge,” a theme that provides a welcome break from the love overload of the cooking contest’s first two episodes. Although I dig a sentimental journey as much as the next person, a week without tears is a relief. Still, this episode was boring on many levels. I’ll try not to dwell too long, but I can’t promise anything.

“That’s what Julia does to people – we can get defensive about our personal versions of her.”

We start with a whole spiel about how Julia Child wrote “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” to demystify French cooking but also “teach home cooks the right way to do things in the kitchen”. This is obviously a universal truth, but also a kind of my universal truth? Of course, that’s what Julia does to people – we can get defensive about our personal versions of her. I’m just gonna breathe through this.

The first challenge is to make a soufflé using only a whisk. No egg beaters or stand mixers to do the hard work of beating those egg whites.

This episode is heavy on archival footage. It’s easy to forget how lovely Julia is if you haven’t looked at her in a while. Because I came to Julia through her book rather than her show, my idea of ​​her voice was already in my head the moment I started watching her. When you think about it, it’s remarkable how perfectly her writing voice and her TV voice match up.

Dustin H. begins with a chocolate soufflé with berry coulis. This is unusual for him, although the chocolate soufflé shortens his time a bit. The chocolate weighs down the dough and it takes longer to rise in the oven.

Elena prepares a coconut soufflé with ube sauce. Ube is a purple yam, so I’m the one learning something new every day. Being “vertically challenged”, she beats her eggs on top of a trash can, as the counter is too high. It’s like “Julia Child Opposite Day”.

“Jaíne makes a cheese soufflé, just like Bill…He forgot to add the cheese.”

Jaíne makes a cheese soufflé, as does Bill. While Jaíne opts to serve hers with corn salad, Bill doesn’t seem interested in making a side dish or sauce. That is, until he forgot to add the cheese. A mornay sauce goes into production while the soufflé is in the oven.

Fabrizio concocts a soufflé with tomato and cheese, that is to say, the sautéed tomatoes take over. Hmmm. He has never made a soufflé before but seems quite confident that he understands the “keys” to success. Honestly, Fabrizio seems like he never did anything, but you haven’t been wrong yet, little prodigy, so let’s see.

Britt’s Lavender Blueberry Compote Soufflé sounds interesting, but disaster is brewing because she somehow turned her oven to 450 degrees instead of 350 degrees. This may be the end of his delicate soufflé, I’m afraid.

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We’re treated to a montage of Julia and the cooks beating their egg whites on “Flight of the Bumblebee.” I admit, it’s pretty cute. Julia, via the archives, warns that the most important thing is do not open the oven once your soufflé is inside. Yet everyone opens their stoves. It’s a real Orpheus-type situation. The Hadestown soundtrack starts playing in my head.

Judgment hour. F**kin’ Dustin H. I keep wanting him to fail just because he’s so cocky and beautiful, but it sails through. Jaíne’s soufflés have risen beautifully, as have those of Bill, who is a huge hit despite his worries about cheese. Guest judge Cliff Cooks has a moment of oral orgasm.

Julia ChildJulia Child in her kitchen. (Aaron Rapoport/CORBIS OUTLINE/Corbis via Getty Images)

Fabrizio’s soufflé is also very good, but he didn’t cook the tomatoes in time. Antonia didn’t like her decision to add fish sauce. As, really did not like.

Then we have a weird pivot from Julia being the one who brought traditional techniques back into American cooking to her love of new technology “in a time when it was frowned upon”. What? Julia brought traditional French cuisine to a dinner-TV-addicted America, but now she’s pushing the food processors on a quaint nation of Luddites at home? Did she herself bring about this change? Life is complicated, friends.

Anyway, I find it artificial that the second challenge is to make two French dishes in an hour and a half using both “vintage” and “modern” cooking technology. Many people opt for the “vintage” food processor, which looks like a food processor.

Many people opt for the “vintage” food processor, which looks like a food processor.

Speaking of food processors, Elena has a weird number of issues with hers. I mean, yeah, they can be a bit boring, but it’s not that hard. She makes a Nicoise potato salad and a mushroom and leek quiche, and will also, technically, use a microwave to some extent.

Bill makes beef bourguignon in an Instant Pot, which is a solid choice, then asparagus velouté in the blender. Otherwise, how would a modern cook make a velouté? I still think this tech tilt is stupid.

Jaíne bakes an almond and orange cake with vacuum-sealed oranges, which is the first interesting use of the technology we’ve seen. Also, the pancake cake, which is a madly demanding dish.

Fabrizio goes classic with steak frites, using a deep fryer for the fries (duh), and chocolate mousse, using a “vintage” stand mixer. God, I miss my grandmother’s stand mixer. This thing was the best. KitchenAid can vacuum stones!

“God, I miss my grandma’s stand mixer. That stuff was the best. KitchenAid can suck rocks!”

Fabrizio keeps saying he knows nothing about French cuisine. Everything he thinks he knows, he learned from cooking videos. This kid is charming, but he may be taking his head with the foam.

Dustin H. makes a chicken liver mousse and a rack of lamb with Provence herbs, deep-fried. I love chicken liver mousse.

Meanwhile, Britt is making vichyssoise with an immersion blender. This is the first time we’ve seen a contestant use “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” as a guide. Interesting. Will she have time to relax? Also, a red fruit clafoutis. It’s classic Julia.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a competitor use ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ as a guide. Interesting.”

Antonia: “Just potatoes and just leeks.” Dude, you’re like a textbook with arms. I know that! (Sounds like an under-tweet to me, since Potato Leek Soup was the first recipe I made on “Julie & Julia” and I focused on keeping it simple.)

Breathe, Julie. Meanness helps no one.

Elena calls the act of removing her quiche from her pie pan a “Simone Biles move.” I love it.

“Elena calls the act of removing her quiche from her pie pan a ‘Simone Biles move’. I LOVE it.”

The judges come out again. Jaíne wins hands down. Bill is safe, as is Dustin H. Fabrizio and Elena are both in trouble. Fabrizio’s mousse is not well cooked and Elena’s quiche crust is raw at the bottom. Oh no! My two favorites.

Finally, Fabrizio came out of the kitchen. Slim. Even if we could see it coming, it’s still a blow. He’s got what it takes – he just needs a little more experience. We’ll see you again, Fabrice!

Like I said, this show pisses me off. On the one hand, it’s pleasant — and for me nostalgic — to see these amateur cooks tackling Julia’s work. On the other hand, is there an underlying cynicism? Or maybe I’m imagining it? It tastes a bit sour. This last challenge seems forced and unnecessary. We are currently walking a tightrope when it comes to entertainment. Let’s see if they can retain the essential Julia-ness in future episodes.

“The Julia Child Challenge” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST on The Food Network; it is also available to stream on Discovery+.

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