In Julia‘s eighth episode, “Chocolate Souffle,” directed by Scott Ellis, Julia Child (Sarah Lancashire) almost decides to cancel The French Chef because of her disagreeable encounter with Betty Friedan (Tracee Chimo Pallero). WGBH President Hunter Fox (Robert Joy) starts the episode feeling invigorated by the cooking program’s fame. He hands the reign of WGBH’S flagship program to Alice Naman (Brittany Bradford). WGBH’s President promises to hire another female producer to help her with The French Chef. Hunter tells Russ Morash (Fran Kranz) that The French Chef earned the public television channel enough money to finance him producing and directing social justice documentaries. Julia decides to drop out of The French Chef’s second season because she is worried that the program traps women in the kitchen. Julia also hates that she deceived her husband, Paul Cushing Child (David Hyde Pierce), about how she launched the cooking program.
Julia’s decision to cancel The French Chef creates problems for her “chosen” family. Russ and Alice are forced to go back to producing P. Albert Duhamel’s (Jefferson Mays) I’ve Been Reading. Alice feels betrayed by Julia quitting because she thought they were one big family. She leans on her new long-distance boyfriend for support. Alice decides to visit him in New York because of her unhappiness at work. Avis DeVoto (Bebe Neuwirth) plans to wring Betty’s neck because The French Chef gives her purpose. The television program helps keep Avis active rather than spending all day depressed sitting on her couch sipping wine.
Meanwhile, in New York, Judith Jones (Fiona Glascott) confronts her boss Blanche Knopf (Judith Light), over sucking the joy out of the big gala. Unfortunately, Blanche is too preoccupied to make even one jab about cookbooks. Eventually, the company president confesses to Judith that her eyes are deteriorating. Blanche will soon be blind. Judith promises to be Blanche’s eyes, meaning that she will now have double the workload.
Paul talks Julia into not giving up on The French Chef because the cooking program plants smile on the audience’s faces. Everybody in Julia’s chosen family rejoices over her signing a contract for the second season of the cooking program. She plans to spend a couple of months in France working on the second cookbook with her collaborator Simone Beck (Isabella Rossellini) but will be back in time to start shooting the new season. Sadly, Alice cuts off her relationship with her boyfriend because she plans on focusing all her attention on being the lead producer of The French Chef. Julia Season One ends with the main cast watching the “Chocolate Souffle” episode of their cooking program while dreaming about the future.
The Child’s marriage is based on a true partnership that Julia fractures by not trusting her husband from the jump. Paul crawls into bed dressed in his paisley pajamas. He notices that Julia, clad in floral pajamas, is reading The Feminine Mystique. He calls her a “masochist.” Julia sighs dramatically. She admits that The French Chef was all her idea. In the pilot episode, Julia had told Paul that the cooking program was all WGBH’s idea because they loved her I’ve Been Reading interview when she cooked an omelet for Albert. Paul sits there, puzzled. Finally, Julia states clearly that she lied to her husband to get him on board. She feels relieved that the whole thing will be over tomorrow when they tape the last episode.
Julia continues to reveal everything to Paul, perhaps to convince him to support her leaving The French Chef. She tells her husband that she has been paying for significant portions of the television program through cookbook royalties and checks from her late father, John McWilliams (James Cromwell). Julia did all this behind Paul’s back because she didn’t think he would support her creating The French Chef under these conditions. Paul seems more and more heartbroken as she explains further.
Paul’s upset because he can’t understand why Julia wouldn’t be honest with him. He has been her number one cheerleader from the start of their relationship. More than that, Paul believes they are partners who take on the world together. He feels embarrassed by learning that their The French Chef partnership has been a lie. Paul sees Julia’s deception similar to how the embassy forced him to retire after the years of service he dedicated them. He is not angry that Julia came up with the idea for the cooking program or partly financed it. Instead, Paul feels betrayed because Julia lied to him. She didn’t trust him to be her true partner. Paul feels duped by the person he loves and respects the most.
Paul forgives Julia, then inspires her to keep creating what brings her and others joy instead of listening to the naysayers. Throughout this episode, Julia is obsessed with the fact that The French Chef upsets feminists. One conversation with Paul turns everything around. Simone calls Julia in the evening to invite her and Paul to live at the co-author’s home in France for an indefinite period of time. This way, they could cook together until they finish their cookbook. Later in the night, Julia senses that Paul doesn’t want to move to France. He tells his wife that he doesn’t want to run away from The French Chef. Julia argues that the television program has been “poisoned” by her lies. However, Paul doesn’t let her take the easy way out.
The husband tells Julia that he still says yes to The French Chef even after learning the truth. As Julia’s true partner, Paul embraces the cooking program despite the financial risks. The only problem is that Julia still believes that Betty might be right. She doesn’t want to destroy any woman’s life. Paul bluntly argues that The French Chef is not that important in the grand scheme of things. The television program means next to nothing compared to their roles in fighting the Nazis during World War Two. Julia won’t save or ruin the United States by continuing to shoot episodes of The French Chef.
More than that, Paul points out that perhaps The French Chef harms or upsets some housewives like Betty argues, but the cooking program is not for them. The series is for the creative team behind The French Chef and for audiences who find joy in being in Julia’s company for half an hour. There is no reason to destroy something that audiences enjoy because it’s not one demographics cup of tea. Finally, Paul states that the world would be dull if criticisms could silence all the artists. Thankfully he breaks through Julia’s protective shell. Once again, she signs up for The French Chef Season Two the next day.
“Chocolate Souffle” reminds us that art doesn’t need to be loved by all to be vital. If even one person finds joy in a painting or cooking program, its existence means something. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
ZI have always loved Julia Child. The renderings of her in this series confirms my love. I hope that Betty Friedan did not say that hateful thing to her.