This was an important and fertile culinary era in Cambridge. A gastronomic revolution took shape thanks to the synergy of a few enterprising women and a growing taste for escapism and "exotic" flavors in the WWII through Vietnam era. This taste was satisfied by Pacific Rim restaurants and Tiki culture, as seen in Aku Aku, Hong Kong, and Joyce Chen. The breezy Mediterranean vibe of Casablanca in 1955 also fit the bill. 1960s Cambridge saw an emergence of French cuisine, with Henri Quatre, Le Bocage, Chez Nous, and Chez Jean leading the charge with dishes like Duck a l'Orange and Escargots Bourguignonne. Furthermore, escapism from kitchen "duty" and feeding large families during the Baby Boom ushered in an era of convenience and gimmicky shortcuts in canned, frozen, and fast foods. Enter Joyce Chen and Julia Child – the country's first celebrity chefs - and a reaction to America's soulless home cooking.

Joyce Chen, sometimes called "the Chinese Julia Child", was equally enthusiastic for opening American palates to authentic Mandarin cuisine. She gained national recognition through her own public television series and cookbook, but in contrast to Child, she ran restaurants (the first predating Child's arrival in Cambridge) and an eponymous import and kitchenware business. Her descendants still run various Massachusetts kitchens today.

Not only did Julia Child call Cambridge home and sing the praises of its establishments, but while here, transformed forever the way Americans experience food: with delight, confidence, and classic techniques. For women, her presence showed the dainty model of an American housewife that getting her hands dirty, boning a duck, making dinner from scratch, was not only OK, but actually a pleasure. Her WGBH cooking shows, filmed in Cambridge, and her several culinary tomes which demystified classic French cooking not only empowered scores of TV Dinner-eating home cooks, but influenced generations of chefs like Alice Waters on the West Coast and Boston's own Gordon Hammersly and Lydia Shire. Such chefs, in turn, set the stage for Boston's dining revolution.

"The store that brought modern living to American homes", Design Research, paralleled this evolution from its post in Harvard Square. They stocked previously unknown European kitchen tools and tableware – much of which appeared on Child's The French Chef. Next to the D/R store, Harvest restaurant was another key player in Cambridge's culinary history. From the seventies to nineties, Harvest was a veritable training ground (some would say playground) for the who's who of chefs and restaurant vets today, some still working in Cambridge.


Come inside to tour Culinary Cambridge 1950-1980