Julia Child was known for saving a cooking disaster by sprinkling some powdered sugar on it, sticking it under the broiler for a few minutes and then calling it a masterpiece. Even after her death, Child’s spirit is making things better; this time, her name is helping to save Galt’s school libraries.
In a one-woman theater performance, Linda Kenyon will portray the 6-foot-2 famous chef on the Hutchins Street Square Stage as the final fundraiser for Re-Open Galt School Libraries. Their goal was to raise $106,000, and they have.
“When we started, no one believed that we could raise the funds to keep our libraries open,” said Leesa Klotz, chairperson for the Re-Open Galt School Libraries committee, made up of parents, teachers and board members.
Thanks to fundraisers throughout the year and the help from groups like Galt Sunshine Rotary, the libraries in Galt schools are now open.
“Four thousand kids have books now,” Klotz said.
Klotz says they will remain open the rest of the school year, if enough people attend the show “Julia Child Says, ‘Bon Appétit’.” And for the three years to come, the libraries will be open because the district won a federal Race to the Top grant. It was a grant given to three school districts in California, and it will provide $10 million over four years for blended learning and personalized student learning. The program requires students to use computers in the library, thus keeping the library open.
The idea for the fundraiser came from Acquiesce Winery owner Susan Tipton, who is hosting the post-theater VIP after-party, as well as a separate Sunday brunch with “Julia.” She previously saw Kenyon perform as Julia and said the event was “awesome.”
“In the first five minutes, I felt like she was Julia Child. You could just kind of sit there and think, ‘This is the next best thing,’” Tipton said. “She’s going to be a hoot.”
At the after-party, Kenyon will take photos and speak with guests as “Julia.” Julia-inspired dishes will be provided by Emily Blaime of Community Tap and Table.
Linda Kenyon: in her own words
Before Meryl Streep played Julia Child on the big screen, Linda Kenyon was appearing on stage, floundering around the kitchen as the iconic American-born French chef whose cooking show not only made people laugh, but gave hopeful cooks confidence at the stove. For four years, Kenyon has been playing the spot-on and hilarious role across the United States.
Sitting in the kitchen of her home in Solebury, Penn., Kenyon spoke over the phone about her interest in the iconic chef. With a similar stature and their shared love for cooking, it’s apparent that Child was a natural role for Kenyon. Kenyon is tall at 5-foot-10½ (“I used to be 5-foot-11 and ¾,” she said). Child was 6-foot-2. Kenyon enjoys cooking and entertaining; it’s not uncommon for her to host 40 to 80 guests at her home.
“I have sort of a party house,” she said.
This is Kenyon on Child:
Where the fascination began
“I like to cook, and I’m tall. I have a show about Eleanor Roosevelt, and people kept asking, ‘What are you going to do next?’ I said, ‘Julia Child.’ I don’t like to write, so a friend of mine, Clay Teunis, wrote the script and I memorized it.
“When I play Julia, I always tell myself go and have fun.”
Embracing Julia's Raggedy-Ann-ness
“I go behind the counter a few times and lean forward, just as she would pose behind the counter. In looking at her videos and seeing her in action, I learned she was loosely jointed; she leans on things and is not afraid to make large movements, like Raggedy Ann. She dropped things; things happen. Her show gave people confidence. She taught people that if you make a mistake, just go ahead — it’s not the end of the world and don’t apologize.”
Kenyon cooked for a crowd, too
“I, Linda Kenyon, used to be a kitchen demonstrator in a department store. They said, ‘Don’t cook anything with garlic’ because it used to get into men’s suits. Cinnamon would always bring people in.”
What she's learned about Julia
“It’s interesting — her political views. I’ve read the letters between her and Avis DeVoto. They were corresponding (during the war) and they were so outraged about everything.
“Something you won’t know is that in the kitchen I’m sitting in right now, she came over here and was here. My parents were good friends with (her husband Paul’s) twin brother. She came down frequently.”
Kenyon's first stage
“Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to be an actress. My mother was a Broadway actress. Actors always came to visit, and they were always entertaining. My parents built a stage for me and my brother, and we would fight over it.”