Before Julia Child demonstrated her “bean trick” for learning how to make omelettes on TV, she talked about it in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
“A simple but perfect way to master the move is to practice outdoors with half a cup of dried beans.”
I have to admit, it was a genius TV gimmick (although filming myself trying to do it on Jackson Avenue at first might have come close).
And so we’re taken to “Julia on TV” week on “The Julia Child Challenge” with a montage of Julia’s various mistakes and adjustments during filming. But I have a question: don’t every week talk about Julia on TV? Isn’t that the whole point of the contest?
The guest judges are Sherry Yard and Stephanie Boswell, both pastry chefs, so I guess I can guess a thing or two about the second challenge.
Meanwhile, the first challenge is an omelet aka the first dish Julia has ever made on TV. This moment is depicted in the HBO miniseries “Julia,” which makes for an interesting double feature with this show. (Sarah Lancashire is great!)
The judges discuss the difficulty in mastering the omelettes. For one thing, you don’t want any color on it, and the texture inside should be creamy – not too runny, not too dry. It really is a goldilocks situation. Omelets are tough, man!
“In fact, they all wear the same clothes. Did they all release this in one day? It looks exhausting.
First of all, something bothers me. Why does Jaíne wear the same (adorable) crawdad dress to every interview? In fact, they all wear the same clothes. Did they produce them all in one day? It seems exhausting.
Simple is the name of the game. Dustin adds leeks and Gruyere cheese to his omelet, which he drapes in saffron Hollandaise sauce. Sherry twice questions her choice to top her egg omelet with hollandaise sauce. “Egg on egg?”
Dillon responds by saying, “Uh, eggs Benedict?” which makes me laugh.
The omelettes are perfectly cooked. Chief Judge Antonia Lofaso (“Top Chef”) loves her trick of grating the Gruyère cheese onto the microplane so it melts perfectly into the omelette. “For me, it’s a brilliant kitchen.”
Bill makes a simple omelet with a version of scallops (scallops in wine sauce) to garnish it, though he appears to use shrimp instead of scallops. It sounds good, but something is wrong. The sauce tastes oddly sweet, and he doesn’t understand why.
“The mystery is solved…He definitely accidentally caught the sweet vermouth instead of the dry.”
The mystery is solved by Antonia during the trial process. Bill definitely accidentally grabbed the sweet vermouth instead of the dry. (That’s why you don’t keep sweet vermouth in the house.) He faked it, though, and Stephanie really likes sweet! His omelettes are also perfect.
Jaíne accompanies her simple omelette with blue cheese, salad and prosciutto. Antonia thinks the blue cheese is a bit overwhelming, while Stephanie thinks it was just a little overkill.
The second challenge concerns French desserts. To see which dessert they’ll be inspired by, the challengers each choose a remote control, which makes me roll my eyes. . . but wait! Wait, that’s kinda cute! Each remote has a number that corresponds to an episode of “The French Chef”.
Britt clicks and gets Apple Charlotte. She punches. Apparently, apples are his favorite fruit for cooking. . . who agree! Sure!
Jaíne gets a chocolate cake. I have a feeling she has this one in the bag.
American chef Julia Child stands in front of a counter, holding a whisk and ladle near a mixing bowl, possibly on the set of her television series ‘The French Chef’. (New York Times Co./Getty Images)
Bill gets a meringue cake that gives me cold sweats just looking at it. And, indeed, he seems to dread this task. “Not only have I never made a meringue cake, but I’ve never even tasted one, so I have no reference for it.”
Dustin grabs a strawberry pie, which doesn’t sound too bad to me, but he winces. In a previous interview, he admitted that his baking experience was “failure after failure after failure after failure.” This is the first time we see him uncertain. A little humility can be a very good thing, even for fitness instructors.
Jaíne makes (among many other things) something called briadeiro, a Brazilian fudge candy, to top off her chocolate coffee trifle. He looks gorgeous coming off the table. Everyone considers it a big hit, even though Sherry begins her review with “it’s shocking not to be sweet” and “dessert oxymoron”. We do not know for several seconds if these are compliments.
READ: Julia Child’s secret sauce and the little black dresses of French cuisine
Bill pulls out a meringue tart with passion fruit curd and blueberry compote, which looks both adorable and correct despite his concern. As usual with Bill, everything turns out fine in the end.
Britt has brioche pudding rounds (whatever that is). I had my doubts about her ability to make a bread pudding in the allotted time – and turns out I was right. Soaking the bread longer would have improved the texture. There are also problems with the cook on his apples. Ooh, Britt! Her flavors are generally good, but time keeps biting her in the ass.
Dustin makes a strawberry Napoleon pie. They look lovely – even after Stephanie warned her that her pastry was overcooked. Everyone criticizes him (nicely!) for not having enough pastry cream. It’s a rare stumble for our Dustin.
“Despite my remarks about the silly stretches this show does to create weekly themes, it’s a great use of Julia Child imagery.”
In the end, there are only three left – and next week’s final. Bill comes first, with Jaíne second. Personally, I would have reversed these two rankings, but I’m not crazy about it. Britt is, unsurprisingly, out.
Despite my remarks about the silly stretches this show does to create weekly themes, it’s a great use of Julia Child footage available in the archive. Is it traracly? Sure! Artificial? Yeah. But, now, I truly believe those home cooks have come to love Julia – if they haven’t already.
“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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