What Sets CNN's New Julia Child Special Apart From The Rest?

Julia Child is an endlessly captivating figure whose multi-faceted life inspires still further explorations. She was a celebrity chef, a pioneering television personality, an accomplished author, and a tireless champion of quality ingredients and confident cooking in an era when convenience and banality came to dominate cuisine in many American homes, says PBS.

Beginning with her debut cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 1961 and the subsequent show "The French Chef" in 1963, Child bridged the gulf between French haute cuisine and the mid-century American kitchen with a disarming and engaging dose of pathos and wit (via the National Women's History Museum). Though she was enthralled with dishes such as bouillabaisse and boeuf bourguignon, Child refused to put on airs about herself or her recipes. She wanted to inspire cooks to pursue passion over dogmatic discipline.

The documentary joins a list of media adaptions of Child and her story, including Jean Stapleton's portrayal of her in 1989's "Bon Appétit" — here reviewed by The New York Times – and 2009's "Julie and Julia," a Nora Ephron-directed movie adaptation of Julie Powell's 2002 blog starring Meryl Streep as Child (per IMDB). 

A deeper dive on Julia

Recently though, a slate of new projects centered on Child have come to fruition, including the HBO Max series "Julia," reviewed here by the AV Club, and Food Network's competition show "The Julia Child Challenge." Joining them is a new documentary from CNN Films, "Julia" from "RBG" directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen and executive producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, according to a press release from CNN.

"Julia" offers viewers a deeper understanding of who Child was by widening the aperture on her life. From her privileged, driven upbringing to her years of clandestine service during WWII, the documentary seeks to draw a line between the foundational events of her early life and the ethic and inspiration she brought to her culinary career. "Julia" paints a realistic portrait of a woman who, though outwardly confident and calm, was beset by insecurities and challenges, yet persevered, with undaunting determination, her goals.

Her story from diplomat's wife to food icon is thoroughly — and lovingly — recounted through archival footage and the voices of those who knew her best and were inspired by her work and her journey. Those include chef and frequent collaborator Jacques Pépin, ABC anchor Charlie Gibson, grandnephew and journalist Alex Prud'homme, and chefs José Andrés and Marcus Samuelsson.

"Julia" will premiere on May 30 on CNN.