An Interview with Author Alex Prud’homme- Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes “The French Chef”

by Alice Knisley Matthias

Do you know how Julia Child became one of America’s most celebrated and famous chefs? She taught many home cooks how to make French recipes and get excited about cooking with her PBS cooking shows and many award-winning cookbooks. 

Julia Child learned to cook in France and then shared her love of French food with
people in the United States. Julia made cooking fun and became one of the first TV chefs who showed people how to appreciate good food and learn how to make recipes in their own kitchens. Her first television show was called “The French Chef.” J
ulia Child had an impact on American households and how they cooked food. The technology for television shows in the 1960s wasn’t what we have today, which means all the mistakes were left in the show when people watched it. Kitchen bloopers! 

 You can read about the life of Julia Child in a book called “Born Hungry” by author Alex Prud’homme who just happens to be her great-nephew.

ALEX PRUD’HOMME is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other publications. He is the coauthor of Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France, and has authored or coauthored The French Chef in America, France is a Feast, Born Hungry, The Ripple Effect, Hydrofracking, The Cell Game, and Forewarned. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York. 

How did you get started writing?

I have always been a reader and liked to write, but after college I planned to become an architect. After I graduated, I launched on a three-month trip to India, Nepal, and Japan. When I got there, the people and places I encountered were so amazing that each leg took longer than I had planned. Soon, my three-month trip stretched into a twenty-month journey around the world. I traveled across Southeast Asia to Australia (where I worked on a fishing boat) to Japan (where I lived for six months, teaching English, acting in a play, and managing a youth hostel) to China, then across the then-USSR on the Trans-Siberian Railway (at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986), to Finland, Sweden, and France. I spent the summer in Paris (where I ate well, learned to speak French, and worked as a janitor at an art school), and finally decided to return home. As I traveled, I met lots of fascinating people and wrote or sketched in my diaries every day. Back in New York City, I was accepted to art school and was offered a job as a fact-checker at New York Magazine: the job paid, and I enjoyed writing, so I took it. It was the right decision for me.

Favorite author/s as a kid?

EB White, Roald Dahl, William Steig, Dr. Seuss, Astrid Lindgren, Jules Verne, Marc Simont (illustrator)

Favorite book/s as a kid?

Stewart Little, James and the Giant Peach, Amos & Boris, all of Seuss, Pippy Longstocking, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Nate the Great 

What subjects interested you in school?

History, English, Art, Biology, Home Economics

What’s a piece of advice/encouragement you got from a teacher or mentor?

  • Luck favors the prepared mind
  • The two dangers in life are risking too much and risking too little

What do you read now?

A wide range of non-fiction, fiction, cookbooks, and art books

How can kids get excited about reading?

Keep looking for a subject that interests you, then dive in deep. In my experience, one book leads to another, and one subject leads to another. Discovering what excites you changes over the years, and is a lifelong process.

How can kids get excited about cooking?

No one is born a cook, as Julia Child said, but we are all “born hungry.” You learn by doing, and eating. The best way to learn to cook is with family or friends. If that’s not possible, take a class in school or after school. When you are old enough, you can learn by using meal kits (which come with ingredients and instructions) to start, and once you have gained confidence about chopping, stirring, and using the stove, you can try things on your own. Try a few different recipes and get good at the ones you like best, which builds confidence. Then keep expanding your repertoire. Take risks, and don’t worry if you make mistakes – we all do, and that’s part of learning. Read cookbooks and magazines, watch tv food shows or movies, and ask questions. Above all, eat well and have fun in the kitchen!

What do you think about making a movie from a book?

It’s a great experience to see a project you have worked on in private become a published book, then watch it as a movie with famous actors on the big screen. I have done a few of these projects, and they don’t always work, but when they do it is gratifying. I recommend it!

Who is someone from the past, or present time, you would like to have a conversation with for dinner?

Thomas Jefferson, Jackie Kennedy, and Barack Obama – they were all foodies in the White House, and led remarkable lives that helped to shape America.

What was the inspiration for “Born Hungry?”

Julia Child was my great aunt, and I grew up listening to her stories about living in Asia during World War II and learning to cook in Paris after the war. I loved those stories as a kid, and thought other people would too. Plus, she was big, loud, and funny.

How do you work with an illustrator to put a book together?

Sadly, I never met my illustrator, Sarah Green. I wrote the book, and she made the colorful pictures. The editor put them together, and we all communicated by email.

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Julia led a remarkable life, and was known for her charm, humor, positive attitude, hard work, and ability to make cooking fun and easy. I hope everyone will be inspired by her example. 

What’s coming up next for you?

I have just published “Dinner with the President: Food, Politics, and a History of Breaking Bread at the White House,” which looks at American history through the lens of food. I really enjoyed writing this book, and now I’m talking about it across the country. I’m not sure what will come next – stay tuned!


Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, garden, family and education. Her work appears in The New York Times, Allrecipes, Taste of Home, Food Network, Washington Post, Eating Well, The Kitchn, Delish, Birds and Blooms, Woman's Day, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, America's Test Kitchen, Boys' Life and Parade. Her book, "Tasty Snacks in a Snap!" is published by Scholastic for young readers. You can read her work at Home / Alice Knisley Matthias ( and follow her at Alice Knisley Matthias (@aliceknisleymatthias) • Instagram photos and videos and @AKnisleyMatth ( / Twitter (