LOS ANGELES -- Julia Child, whose chirping words of encouragement and unpretentious style brought French cuisine to American homes through her television series and books, died Friday. She was 91.
A 6-foot-2 American folk icon, "The French Chef" was known to her public as Julia. She showed a delight not only in preparing good food but in sharing it, and ended her landmark public television lessons at a set table with the wish, "Bon appetit."
Child died at her home in an assisted-living center in Montecito, about 90 miles northwest of Los Angeles, said her niece, Philadelphia Cousins.
"She passed away in her sleep," Cousins said. "She was with family and friends and her kitten, Minou. She had cookbooks and many paintings by her husband Paul around the house."
Child, who died two days before her 92nd birthday, had been suffering from kidney failure, Cousins said.
Child was a skillful -- and sometimes messy -- chef, beckoning everyone to have no fear and give exquisite cuisine a try.
"Dining with one's friends and beloved family is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal," she said in the introduction to her seventh book, "The Way to Cook." "In spite of food fads, fitness programs, and health concerns, we must never lose sight of a beautifully conceived meal."
Her gourmet philosophy also included drinking. In one TV program, chef and friend Jacques Pepin asked what kind of wine she preferred with picnics -- red or white.
"I like beer," Child said enthusiastically, pulling out a cold bottle and two glasses.
Pepin recalled a friendship that began in 1960.
"We'd go to the market, and she'd buy Wonder Bread," he told The Associated Press. "She had no snobbism about food whatsoever."
In an A-line skirt and blouse, and an apron with a dish towel tucked into the waist, Child grew familiar enough to be parodied by Dan Aykroyd on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and was the subject of Jean Stapleton's musical revue, "Bon Appetit."
She was 51 when she made her television debut as "The French Chef." The series began in 1963 and continued for 206 episodes. Child won a Peabody award in 1965 and an Emmy in 1966, and went on to star in several more series for Boston's WGBH-TV.
Her husband, Paul Child, died in 1994, and in late 2001, Julia Child, a longtime resident of Cambridge, Mass., moved to Santa Barbara. The couple had no children.
A private memorial service was planned, but Child asked that no funeral be held.