In Julia Season One Episode Five,” Crepe Suzette,” directed by Jenee LaMarque, Julia Child (Sarah Lancashire) travels to San Francisco with director Russ Morash (Fran Kranz), her husband Paul Cushing Child (David Hyde Pierce), and book editor Judith Jones (Fiona Glascott) to promote The French Chef. Julia starts to love her newfound fame after a packed book signing in San Francisco for Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Then, she reconnects with the flamboyant American chef James Beard (Christian Clemenson), who takes her on several fun-filled adventures in San Francisco. James lives on the edges of society because of his sexuality.
Paul hopes that the trip to San Francisco will allow him to spend quality time with his wife but ends up feeling left out. Julia spends most of the work trip with James. Alice Naman (Brittany Bradford) stays behind in Boston with Avis DeVoto (Bebe Neuwirth) even though she was the one who convinced the San Francisco public television channel to air The French Chef. She thinks her race and gender get in the way of her career. During a dinner out, Avis confides to Alice about how Julia saved her from depression after her husband died and her children left home.
Judith travels to San Francisco with the posse because she arranged the book signing. She learns from Blanche Knopf (Judith Light) that one of the John Updike’s (Bryce Pinkham) novels that she edited has been shortlisted for the National Book Award. A possible National Book Award and packed Mastering the Art of French Cooking book signing leave Judith feeling on top of the moon. “Crepe Suzette” ends with Julia and Paul cuddling in their hotel room bed, ready to take on the challenges of her newfound professional success together.
OUTCASTS WHO SPARKLE
The two American Chefs were born to perform in front of the camera, but James’ queerness leaves him existing in Julia’s shadow. One San Francisco public television executive expresses shock that a middle-aged big-boned woman like Julia could draw crowds to a local bookstore for a signed cookbook. However, she still fits within the normative box of femininity. James’ obvious queerness makes the same level of fame as her impossible even in liberal San Francisco. However, he and Julia click right away when they meet up during the book signing.
Julia bends down to put away a dessert that a fan baked for her. In a yellow bow tie and striped suit, James tiptoes up to her table at the bookstore. He jokily asks Julia to sign his spatula. Julia pops up from beneath the table. She screams in delight when she spots James. They hug each other tightly, giggling away. James notes their similarities several times during their first meeting. For example, he calls Julia a “sensualist” like him.
After the book signing, James takes Julia, Judith, and Russ out for dinner at his favorite restaurant in the Bay Area. The two chefs spend the night joking around. Julia and James were both theatre majors in college. They still love to perform and make others laugh. James enjoyed inhabiting characters during college because he couldn’t fit in with the other theatre students.
In contrast, Julia could only play herself. A gift that now serves her well as the host of The French Chef. The head chef ends up inviting them both into the restaurant’s kitchen. They cook a soup together while talking about how all the vegetables and herbs grow in the restaurant’s garden. The pair ends the night together, ditching the tired Russ and Judith. James drags Julia to a gay club full of drag queens, where he feels at home surrounded by those who embrace their “colorful” queerness.
James seems like a jovial chef whose fulfilled by his life, but there are hints of sorrow in him. Judith and James admire Julia as she prepares for a meal demonstration on San Francisco local television. James admits to the book editor that he felt jealous when Mastering the Art of French Cooking first came out. He realizes that Judith was behind the many editorial decisions that launched the cookbook into acclaim. James desperately wants her to edit his next one to bring some magic to his limited career. Instead of having sympathy for James’ plight, Judith shuts him down by stating that she is a fiction book editor who only publishes Julia’s cookbooks. In reality, James Beard had already written seminal cookbooks, wrote several articles on food, opened a restaurant in Nantucket, and founded a cooking school. A flick of pain flashes on James’ face before he brushes it away. He acts as Julia’s “knight in shining armor” with a big smile on his face during her crepe Suzette demonstration on live television. James even promotes The French Chef at the end of the show. He refuses to allow his potential jealously to get in the way of their friendship.
The gay chef rides in the taxi with Julia to her hotel to allow him time to speak with her. James tells Julia that a cooking show he launched years ago failed because America is not ready to love a “fat old fairy” like him. She tries to comfort her friend, but he waves her off. James says that Julia makes everybody, including him, very happy. He tempts her with another adventure to a local vineyard. Julia refuses because she wants to spend alone time with Paul. Julia kisses James goodbye, and his face sinks the minute she is out of view. His typically upbeat voice turns dull when he instructs the cab driver on what street to drop him off. The fifth episode presents James Beard’s life as tragic because of his queerness.
PAUL THE ABONANDED HOUSEWIFE
Paul acts like a jilted lover because Julia spends all her time in San Francisco with James instead of with him. He still struggles with the fact that his wife now has the primary career in their household. Initially, the book signing in San Francisco was supposed to last an hour, allowing them to spend Saturday together. Instead, the event turned into a multi-hour signing with the line of fans winding around the block. Paul ends up visiting an art gallery alone. He tells the art gallery owner about The French Chef because that is currently the only thing of note in his life. Paul doesn’t have the exciting existence in the diplomatic core to brag about anymore. Then James takes Julia out until late at night, leaving Paul alone in their hotel room.
There is a pitiful scene where Paul soaks in the bath with a towel on his forehead, listening to opera. He can’t reach a bottle of shampoo that is just out of reach. He calls for Julia to help before remembering she is out. Paul fails to use a towel swan to knock the shampoo off the sink onto the floor where he can reach the bottle. The bottle only ends up further away. Paul acts coldly toward Julia the following day because he didn’t get her full attention. He ditches Julia’s taping to visit with Claire, his ex-girlfriend’s daughter, on the Warf.
Claire reminds Paul how much Julia sacrificed to move all over the world with him. She full-heartedly supported his career as a diplomat. Paul decides to do the same for Julia even if he must share her with the whole nation. They are very much a feminist couple. He reassures Julia that she doesn’t have to give up The French Chef or anything else for him. Paul pledges they will navigate fame together.
Julia Child finally discovers the fun nature of stardom, but she learns that she needs to protect her relationship with Paul for their marriage to flourish. Let us know your thoughts on “Crepe Suzette” in the comments below.