Bon appetit! A cooking competition inspired by culinary legend Julia Child and featuring her “superfans” as contestants has been ordered at Food Network and Discovery Plus, Variety has learned exclusively.
Based on the legacy of Child, who motivated generations of home cooks with her talent, enthusiasm and humor, “The Julia Child Challenge” will see eight top-notch home cooks compete in high-stakes culinary challenges to find out who has the fire, skill and passion to win the first-ever primetime competition series dedicated to all things Julia, per the show’s official description. The competitors, all Julia Child superfans, share personal stories about their hero, cook in a kitchen recreated in the likeness of where Julia herself cooked, using the same ingredients Julia used and are even guided by Julia herself through a larger-than-life television screen right in the middle of all the action.
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“The Julia Child Challenge” features Antonia Lofaso as head judge and a rotating panel of guest judges who will decide which competitor wins the life-changing grand prize that literally follows in Julia’s footsteps: an all-expense paid three-month cooking course at Le Cordon Bleu.
“Julia Child is a culinary hero to cooks everywhere – her love of food and sense of humor set the tone for this one-of-a-kind competition,” Courtney White, president of Food Network and streaming food content at Discovery Inc., told Variety. “From the kitchen set to Julia’s own words, the level of detail in each episode can only be described as mind-blowing. At the same time, the series is also very intimate, with competitors sharing their personal food journeys and how Julia Child changed their lives, we cannot wait for viewers to experience this show.”
Per Food Network and Discovery Plus, “Working in conjunction with The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts to ensure this series reflects Julia’s incredible talent and heart, each episode features two rounds of competitive cooking: the first-round masters the basics and challenges the competitors to recreate one of Julia’s signature dishes, with some guidance from Julia herself, as seen on a giant television screen in the middle of the action. Round two is an ode to Julia, where competitors must take inspiration from Julia to create a unique dish reflecting their own culinary point of view. Round two dishes are served family-style, with competitors and judges sampling each dish and sharing stories about their food and personal connection to Julia. Based on performance, the judges name one winner and send one competitor home each week, until the last cook standing is awarded the ultimate grand prize.”
In the series premiere, of “The Julia Child Challenge,” which premieres March 14 at 9/8c on Food Network and streams the same day on Discovery Plus, eight competitors enter the kitchen in awe and are welcomed by Julia herself on the giant screen. To kick things off, head judge Lofaso and guest judges Michael Voltaggio and Francis Lam challenge the competitors to use their skills and imagination to make one of the French dishes that changed Julia’s life: sole meunière. In round two’s ode to Julia, the competitors must share their culinary journey by recreating the meal that changed their own culinary life. After sharing those dishes and the stories behind them, the judges name one overall episode winner and the first competitor is sent home.
The “Julia Child Challenge” competitors are: Bill Borman (Hudson, New York); Christine Fiorentino (Hoboken, New Jersey); Dustin Hogue (Chicago, Illinois); Jaine Mackievitz (Worcester, Massachusetts); Brit Moore (New York, New York); Dustin Rennells (Charlestown, Massachusetts); Elena Ross-Salonga (Cambria, California) and Fabrizio Villalpando (Los Angeles, California).
Guest judges include Molly Baz, Stephanie Boswell, Alvin Cailan, Cliff Crooks, Susan Feniger, Dorie Greenspan, Melissa King, Nilou Motamed, Jacques Pepin, Sherry Yard and Brooke Williamson.
“The Julia Child Challenge” is produced by Purveyors of Pop, 3 Arts Entertainment and eOne.
A digital companion series, “Inspired By: The Julia Child Challenge,” will rollout weekly on FoodNetwork.com featuring head judge Lofaso serving up dishes that are her take on the competition.
See photos from the upcoming series below.
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