Julia Child’s Home in France Is for Sale
Fans of Julia Child have been able to “visit” her Cambridge, Mass. kitchen—the setting of her public television show Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home—since she donated it to the Smithsonian Museum in 2001. But that 14-by-20-foot space is only viewable from the doorways; visitors can’t walk through the French Chef‘s cuisine, and they certainly can’t chop at her extra-tall countertops, or rifle through her meticulously-organized storage.
But cooking where Julia Child once did is now a possibility. La Pitchoune, the modest, stucco home Child and her husband, Paul, built in Provence, France, is on the market, the New York Times reported yesterday. While the property’s later tenant, Kathie Alex, modernized the home by adding en suite bathrooms in each of the three bedrooms and an outdoor pool, the kitchen has been largely untouched.
“You could almost say we’re selling the kitchen with the property thrown in,” Alexander Kraft, chairman of Sotheby’s International Realty France, told the Times. “It’s really got the same look and feel as the one in the Smithsonian. Whoever buys it is really buying a true piece of Julia Child’s history.”
La Peetch, as Child called it, was the Childs’ vacation home in Julia’s “spiritual homeland” from 1963-1992. Located just north of Cannes in southeastern France, the cottage hosted American culinary luminaries James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, and Richard Olney, as well as Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking collaborator Simca Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. La Peetch was erected on land owned by the Fischbacher family, and a handshake deal ensured the property was turned over to them when the Childs were done with it.
That was in 1992, after the deaths of Child’s beloved husband, and her good friends Beck and Fischbacher. “She was really a people person, and so without her favorite people there, it kind of lost its charm,” Child’s grand-nephew and My Life in France associate, Alex Prud’homme, recounted in the Times.
But the French kitchen of America’s original celebrity chef wasn’t washed up, figuratively speaking. When the Fischbacher family regained ownership of La Pitchoune, they arranged for Kathie Alex, an American who moved to France to study cooking with Beck in the 1970s, to rent it. She soon opened a culinary school there, and ultimately brought the property.
Alex, now 75, told the Times she was teaching her clients many of Child’s and Beck’s techniques at her école de cuisine. She also appreciated the original owner’s mise en place. “[Child] was a very organized person,” Alex said. “Everything is where your hand is. Everything is so easy to get to.”
Like in the chef’s famous Cambridge kitchen, that includes tools hung from a pegboard, outlined for each particular spot, and neatly-labeled storage. The slideshow accompanying the the New York Times’ captivating history of La Pitchoune shows this history remains. The only missing artifact from Child’s time in the kitchen is her “gleaming white, cantankerous La Cohune” stove, which Child gave to food writer Patricia Wells when she gave up La Pitchoune.
For 800,000 Euros—about $860,000 in U.S. money—the practical kitchen could now be your getaway. The property is listed by Sotheby’s International Realty.