The French Chef was an influential television cooking show created by Julia Child, and produced and broadcast by WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts, from February 11, 1963 to 1973. It was one of the first cooking shows on television. The French Chef introduced French cooking to the United States at a time when it was considered expensive restaurant fare, not suitable for home cooking. Child emphasized fresh and, at the time, unusual ingredients. The show grew out of some special presentations that Julia had done based on the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which she had co-authored, and went on to become the most recognized pioneering cooking show. All of the recipes used on The French Chef had originally appeared in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but for the show, Child chose mostly the more domestic recipes from the book, although such showpieces as Beef Wellington, various sorts of soufflé, and some ambitious pastries also made it into the mix if they seemed within the reach of a home cook without staff.
The show was done live to videotape from start to finish, leaving little room for mistakes. The resulting occasional accidents became a popular trademark of Child's on air presence, used as "teachable moments" to encourage viewers to relax about the task's demands. Certain elements became leitmotifs: Julia's fondness for wine; her staunch defense of the use of butter; her standard issue "impeccably clean towel"; and her closing line at the end of every show: "Bon appétit!"
Child's emphasis on whole, fresh ingredients often led to markets running out of whatever particular meat, fish, or vegetable was featured when an episode aired.
Child was neither French nor a chef, but had studied and taught cooking in France.
The French Chef was produced by WGBH for National Educational Television (and later, PBS) from February 19, 1963 to 1973. Reruns continued on PBS until 1989. A February 11, 1972 episode of The French Chef was the first television show to be captioned for deaf viewers. The show aired in one format, originally in black and white (later taped in color), and two companion cookbooks were written along with the show. The French Chef Cookbook was a show-by-show breakdown of the color series, while From Julia Child's Kitchen was a somewhat more ambitious work that took its cues from the color series but also added considerable extra material.