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Chautauqua serves up a feast of knowledge with 'Julia Child'

By Michael Harrington • Jun 14, 2019 at 4:00 PM

MILAN — Ohio Chautauqua cooked up quite the spectacle with the reenactment of renowned chef Julia Child.

The renovations to the Milan Township Hall came just in time as the rain drove Ohio Chautauqua from its tent in the village square to the hall’s ballroom

Chautauqua — an Ohio Humanities program combining performances of historical figures, lectures and live music — featured Concord University acting professor Karen Vuranch’s portrayal of the renowned cook.

Child is best known for popularizing French cuisine in America through her cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and her television show “The French Chef.”

“She had a huge impact on changing the way we eat. By the 1960s food was at its lowest end in American culture. Frozen dinners and three-ingredient meals were the norm because the emphasis was on saving time,” Vuranch said. “She was able to convince people to try to cook again and bring people back to the kitchen.”

Vuranch’s performance envisioned the crowd of hundreds in the ballroom as the live studio audience at the taping of one of Child’s shows. The crowd roared with laughter as Vuranch captured Child’s iconic intonation.

“It was fascinating,” Sandusky resident Ruth Brink said. “She truly made you believe she was Julia Child.”

Despite eventually becoming famous for her culinary skills, Child didn’t learn how to cook until she was an adult. Vuranch’s performance touched on her time as a secretary for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during War World II.

It was during this time that she met fellow OSS employee Paul Child, whom she married in 1946. They moved to Paris in 1948 for his job with the U.S. Foreign Service.

In Paris, Child discovered her passion for cooking and studied at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. She eventually published her first cookbook in 1961, which became a best seller.

She would go on to publish several books, but she was able to become the teacher of would be chefs across the nation with her cooking show “The French Chef” which aired in 1963.

At the end of her performance, Vuranch stepped out of character to answer questions from the audience about how she believed Child would’ve felt about modern portrayals and current cooking shows.

“It was awesome,” Milan resident Susan Kovacs said. “I watched Julia Child for years and I think her portrayal was as good as any.”

Chautauqua continues until Saturday with programs during the day and live music at 6:30 p.m. followed by a reenactment at 7:30 p.m.

Actor Fred Blanco will portray civil and labor rights leader Cesar Chavez for Friday’s reenactment.

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