Exclusive: How the creators of HBO Max's "Julia" painstakingly recreated The French Chef's kitchen

Julia Child's kitchen is so iconic that it's preserved in the Smithsonian. How did HBO Max recreate it for TV?

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published April 13, 2022 11:00AM (EDT)

Sarah Lancashire in "Julia" (Photograph by Seacia Pavao/HBO)
Sarah Lancashire in "Julia" (Photograph by Seacia Pavao/HBO)

Julia Child's home kitchen is so iconic that it's preserved in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. There, on the ground floor, you can see the very room in which one of the country's preeminent chefs changed the way we cook (except for the floor and the walls, which are fabrications).

From the signature blue pegboard wall that held her copper cookware collection to the bespoke countertops that were constructed two inches higher than store-bought models in order to accommodate her 6-foot-2 frame, Child's kitchen remains one-of-a-kind and instantly recognizable in popular culture. 

That's why the creators of the HBO Max's limited series "Julia" had to take such care in recreating The French Chef's kitchen

Related: The joy of HBO Max's Julia Child series, a deliciously affectionate celebration of an icon

In a new featurette from HBO Max called "Inside Julia's Kitchen," the creative minds behind the painstaking recreation of Child's two most famous kitchens — her home kitchen and her TV kitchen on the set of "The French Chef" — pulled back the curtain on their work, which grounded the real-life story being told in authenticity. 

"We enlarged it just a little bit for our set," production designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein said. "But we brought veritas to it that ordinarily a set would not have."

Production designer Stephen Cooper concurred, "If the average person went to the Smithsonian and looked at the kitchen there and our kitchen, I don't think they'd tell very much apart." 

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The feat not only required having a sharp eye for detail but also the ability to creatively source discontinued cookware and materials that were "near impossible to find." Function for filming was also top of mind; for instance, the ovens were designed in such a way that the production's cameras could capture unique shots from the inside. 

The attention to historical accuracy didn't end with the set, however. The producers of "Julia" worked with veteran food stylist Christine Tobin — whose credits include "American Hustle," "Little Women" and "Olive Kitteridge" — to ensure that iconic Child dishes like beef bourguignon and Queen of Sheba cake also passed muster. Together, they guaranteed that everything felt authentically "Julia" on camera. 

"Working with Sarah (Lancashire, who plays Child) and her cooking was almost like choreographing a dance," Tobin told Salon Food in an interview. "There were days like that, which were very heavy in meetings and planning, but on past projects, I've never really been brought into that bubble, or as I like to call it, 'the stew.' I really got to understand all the moving parts to making a series like this from beginning to end." 

To learn more about the making of the "Julia" set, you can watch HBO Max's never-before-seen featurette for the very first time below.

More stories about the beloved Julia Child: 

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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