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Julia Child

In this Aug. 13, 1992 photo, chef and author Julia Child holds tomatoes in the kitchen at her home in Cambridge, Mass. More than a decade after her death, the foundation she created finally is launching a culinary award named in her honor.

More than a decade after Julia Child's death, the foundation she created finally is launching a culinary award named in her honor.

The annual award pays tribute to one of the United States' most influential cooks. With a writing and television career that spanned decades, Child is credited with revolutionizing Americans' notion of fine food, starting with her now iconic 1961 cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." She taught generations of Americans to enjoy food and embrace their mistakes in the kitchen.

But the group was in no rush to create an award, said Todd Shulkin, executive director of The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. They wanted to take the time needed to create something unique from other culinary awards. Food writers, chefs and television personalities, for example, already are honored by annual awards given in tribute to Child's friend, James Beard.

The Julia Child Award, which will be named annually, will be presented to someone who has improved how Americans think about food and cooking. The nominees and winner will be selected by a jury appointed by the foundation, with the winner receiving a $50,000 grant to give to a food-related nonprofit.

"There's a list of about half a dozen characteristics they are looking for. It's looking at what Julia represented and why she was so successful, that combination of education and entertainment, passion and commitment to the subject," Shulkin said. "We're looking at trying to shine a spotlight on people who are prodding change, challenging what Americans are eating and drinking and encouraging them to cook for themselves."

The first winner will be announced in August and the award will be presented in October at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

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Entertainment Editor/Features Reporter

Eloise is A&E Editor and a food, entertainment and features writer for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.