Whip up a storm in Julia Child's kitchen

Culinary icon's cottage in Provence is now listed for rent on Airbnb

NEW YORK• Home-sharing was always part of Julia Child's vision for La Pitchoune, the idyllic, little cottage in Provence that she built with the advance money from Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, Volume Two.

Back in the 1970s, the culinary icon habitually lent the home to friends, who had access to her recipes, cookware and a black book filled with her local recommendations.

Now, 40 years later, La Peetch, as the home is affectionately called, is joining a collection of homes costing more than US$2 million (S$2.75 million) available for rent on Airbnb - no doubt as one of the company's most special offerings. Even Julia's black book is still there.

Currently listed for US$590 a night, La Peetch is newly under the watch of American couple Evie and Makenna Johnston.

They are the first owners who lack a personal connection to the French chef; after Child's death in 2004, the home reverted to Simone Beck, the famous co-author of Mastering The Art, on whose land La Peetch was built.

The home's most recent steward, Ms Kathie Alex, was one of Beck's closest students. But the Johnstons are set on honouring the legacy of the Chateauneuf cottage and have envisioned a future for the home that includes private Airbnb rentals as well as all-inclusive culinary and yoga retreats. (They hope to kick off the week-long, six-people programmes next year.)

Though decades past its heyday, La Peetch remains the charming, comically dysfunctional representation of Julia and Paul Child. A series of upgrades overseen by Ms Alex added ensuite bathrooms to each of the three bedrooms and made the home fitter for upscale travellers. But as with the best five-star hotels, its magic is in the details.

According to author Luke Barr, who spent a month in La Peetch while writing Provence, 1970, flipping through the black book offers an intimate look at the idiosyncrasies of the Childs' lifestyle - which you can then experience for yourself.

Barr said: "Paul was very detailoriented and an incredibly good artist." He recalled one drawing in the black book detailing the home's plumbing lines, should issues arise. Also included, said Barr, are strict instructions on how (and how not) to use the temperamental oven, which the Childs constantly feared would break or explode, along with phone numbers of handymen or English-speaking doctors and recommendations for the best local butchers and fishmongers.

Julia's presence can be felt in the most obvious of places, the kitchen, which is exactly as she left it, pegboard walls and all.

"The kitchen has been maintained impeccably," said Barr, noting one exception - the aforementioned oven. "They had a La Cornue oven… a thousand-pound, hulking beautiful metal object that was once the ultimate in luxury appliances. The catch is that it was endlessly complicated - it was always smoking, and there are all these funny letters about how Julia was constantly trying to get it fixed."

The new oven, he says, is a convection model, still state-of-the-art.

Another subtler change has been made in preparation for Airbnb house guests: the addition of hidden cameras. Although they are intended to ensure that guests do not steal relics from the kitchen drawers, they will probably do double duty for aspiring TV chefs who want to try their hand at beef bourguignon.

Why make the pilgrimage if you are not willing to sharpen your knife skills?


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 05, 2016, with the headline 'Whip up a storm in Julia Child's kitchen'. Print Edition | Subscribe