The Julia Child Awards are given every year at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The recipients are honored for their role in pushing American food into new realms and changing the way we look at cooking. Part of the award is that the winners all donate objects from their lives that help tell the story of their careers. Those items - notebooks, menus, cooking equipment, even typewriters - go into the museum’s collections, to be immortalized. Paula Johnson is a curator at the museum and that director of its American Food and Wine History Project. (Yes, she may just have one of the coolest jobs in the food world!) She talked with Francis Lam about working one-on-one with the honorees to decide what items and artifacts to contribute.

See the video below to learn more about how the Julia Child Foundation selects its annual award winners. The museum was also kind enough to share with us the photos below from the collections of previous Julia Child Award winners Jacques Pépin, Danny Meyer, and Rick Bayless.


Video Source: The Julia Child Foundation



Curator Paula Johnson in action. Left: Discussing donations with Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. Right: Hanging cookware as part of the Julia Child's kitchen display. Curator Paula Johnson in action. Left: Discussing donations with Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. Right: Hanging cookware as part of the Julia Child's kitchen display at the National Museum of American History.


JACQUES PÉPIN - JULIA CHILD AWARD 2015

Jacques Pépin accepts Julia Child AwardJacques Pépin accepts Julia Child Award

Jacques Pépin in the studio cooking with Julia Child for her television programJacques Pépin and Julia Child in Julia's home kitchen, cooking together for their television program, "Just Cooking," 1998. Photo: Christopher Hirsheimer

Menus hand-illustrated by Jacques PépinMenus hand-illustrated by Jacques Pépin. On left, menu for a special dinner created for Julia Child at her home, shortly before her kitchen was packed up by the Smithsonian. On right, the menu for the meal created by Jacques Pépin and Daniel Boulud for the first Smithsonian Food History Gala, 2015.

Jacques Pépin views the Julia Child kitchen display at the National Museum of American HistoryJacques Pépin views the Julia Child kitchen display at the National Museum of American History.


DANNY MEYER - JULIA CHILD AWARD 2016

Danny Meyer and his mother at the special display presented in his honorDanny Meyer and his mother at the special display showcasing a selection of the objects he donated to the National Museum of American History in 2017.

Danny Meyer takes a selfie with Julia Child at the National Museum of American HistoryDanny Meyer takes a selfie with Julia Child’s likeness in the FOOD exhibition at the National Museum of American History.

Danny Meyer NotebookDanny Meyer’s journal, 1985. As Meyer prepared to open Union Square Café, his first Manhattan restaurant, he sought guidance from people with experience in different aspects of the restaurant business. The journal contains notes from those meetings, revealing his early thinking on hospitality and service, and key points on training and communicating with staff.

Union Square Care menuUnion Square Cafe menu, 1990s

illustrations of olivesDanny Meyer’s uncle, author and artist Richard Polsky, helped Meyer decide to eschew a career in law to pursue his love of food. Polsky made these “olive oil” prints for possible use on an olive oil bottle. Polsky’s paintings also grace the walls of Union Square Café in New York.


RICK BAYLESS - JULIA CHILD AWARD 2017

Rick Bayless's typewriterRick Bayless's typewriter, a Hermes 3000 portable model, that Bayless used during his research travels in Mexico in the 1980s. A trained anthropologist, Bayless kept meticulous notes that informed his first book, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, and his first restaurant n Chicago, Frontera Grill.

Notebook from Rick Bayless's travels to MexicoRick Bayless’s field notes, typed on his portable typewriter, during his research travels to Mexico in the 1980s.

Mexican mortar and pestle from Rick Bayless's personal collection.Mortar and pestle given to Rick Bayless by the owner of a Chicago carniceria during the Chicago Bulls championship run in the early 1990s.

Plate CollectionPlates from Rick Bayless’s Chicago restaurants. The earthenware plate at right is from the first set he bought in Mexico, in Capula, Michoacan. The plates with blue patterns were purchased in Mexico for use at Topolobampo.

Francis Lam

Francis Lam is the host of The Splendid Table. He is the former Eat columnist for The New York Times Magazine and is Editor-at-Large at Clarkson Potter. He graduated first in his class at the Culinary Institute of America and has written for numerous publications. Lam lives with his family in New York City.