Raised in the Amazon, lifelong Julia Child fan now cooks on TV like her culinary idol

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Growing up in a remote town in the Amazon region of northern Brazil, Jaíne Mackievicz spent her time watching TV with her mother, who loved learning new recipes from TV cooking shows.

Then one day, when she was around 7 years old, Mackievicz rocked her world when she saw American celebrity chef Julia Child making spaghetti on the “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” show.

“She was so funny and lively and different. She was making spaghetti and enjoying it so much,” Mackievicz said. “I was a big kid and I was bullied at school and I thought that was a negative thing. But Julia was so big. I realized there was room for tall women in the kitchen and I had this vision that I wanted to do this when I grew up.

This week, Mackievicz’s vision becomes a reality. The Oceanside resident is one of eight dedicated Child fans taking part in Food Network’s new series ‘The Julia Child Challenge’. Filmed on a Los Angeles set built to look exactly like the kitchen where Child filmed his long-running cooking show, the series features contestants sharing their stories of Julia, cooking her recipes and creating their own dishes inspired by their culinary hero. . The series airs Monday at 9 p.m. on Food Network and the Discovery+ broadcast network.

Oceanside’s Jaine Mackievicz on set of Food Network’s ‘The Julia Child Challenge’ competition series.

(Melissa Libertelli)

While still in elementary school, Mackievicz told her parents – her late father was Polish, her mother is Brazilian – that she wanted to be a chef when she grew up, but they pushed her into a career. more stable. So she followed in the footsteps of her lawyer mother and spent six years in law school in Brazil, where she baked and sold cakes to her classmates in her spare time. She became a lawyer but was secretly unhappy.

Then six years ago, with the encouragement of her fiancé, Douglas, Mackievicz followed her passion. They moved to Massachusetts — Child’s longtime home — where she began learning English and taking weekend classes at Boston University’s Metropolitan College Culinary School, which Child started. co-founded with French chef Jacques Pépin in 1989.

Mackievicz’s original goal was to become a food writer, which she accomplished when she met Kerry Diamond, the founder of Cherry Bombe, a media company that celebrates women in the food industry. Diamond hired Mackievicz to write about his lifelong passion for Julia Child for Cherry Bombe’s 2021 “Julia Child Jubilee” issue. This article caught the attention of Food Network producers, who invited her to audition for the series.

The Child is considered one of the greatest 20th century influences on American home cooking. From the late 1950s to the early 1990s, Child translated cookbooks into French, wrote her own cookbooks, and starred in a long series of television cooking shows. His best-selling 1961 cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” made French gourmet cuisine accessible to everyone and it is still in print. The child died in 2004 at the age of 91.

“Julia Child is a culinary hero for all cooks. Her love of food and sense of humor set the tone for this one-of-a-kind contest,” Courtney White, Food Network President, said in a statement. “The series is also very intimate, with contestants sharing their personal food journeys and how Julia Child changed their lives.”

Food Network

Antonia Lofaso, Food Network’s “The Julia Child Challenge” chief judge, right, with contestants Fabrizio Villalpando, left to right, Bill Borman, Christine Fiorentino, Britt Moore, Elena Ross-Salonga, Dustin Rennells, Dustin Hogue and Jaine Mackievicz.

(Melissa Libertelli)

Mackievicz, who moved to Oceanside with her fiancé a year ago for a job in the restaurant industry, said she struggled with her confidence and nerves after being cast. But once she stepped on the Julia-style kitchen set, she felt right at home.

“It was pure magic. I felt like I was 100% in Julia’s kitchen. It was a dream come true just to be there,” said Mackievicz, who also decorated her Julia-style oceanside cooking.” At one point during filming, I even forgot it was a reality competition because I was having so much fun. I had this mindset of really enjoying my time there because it won’t happen again.

The first episode, airing Monday night, will ask the chefs to cook sole meunière, the butter-sautéed fish dish that changed Child’s life and made him want to become a chef. After trying the dish at a restaurant in Rouen, France, in 1948, Child and her husband, an American foreign service officer, moved to Paris where she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.

The winner of the “Julia Child Challenge” will receive a three-month, all-expenses-paid cooking class at the same school in Paris.

Mackievicz said she was thrilled to have followed in Child’s footsteps to pursue her culinary dream and represent Brazilian cuisine on American television. Her future goals are to continue writing about food and sharing her Brazilian recipes and stories from the Amazon. Eventually, she would like to publish her own cookbooks.

“If I think about my background and where I was born, it was so far from being close to something like this show and being able to cook for a living or write about food for a living” , she said. “It’s that Julia magic. It brings me so much happiness and joy.

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