Had the pioneering celebrity chef stayed in her "parochial" Pasadena, she once confided to a biographer, she might have "become an alcoholic."
Today, she would have been able to graduate from Le Cordon Bleu, the American version, without going all the way to Paris — or even leaving her hometown. In recent years, the famed culinary school has colonized more than 100,000 square feet near downtown Pasadena. It's just one sign of the frenzy of culinary activity in a city that has grown and changed drastically since Child's upbringing.
Today, with 550 eateries, Pasadena has more restaurants per capita than New York City. And it has attracted name-brand Westside chefs who once would not have considered setting up shop this far east.
The city's emergence as a culinary hub owes to a larger revitalization of Old Pasadena, along with that of downtown Los Angeles, encouraging an eastward migration of culinary culture. The rise of Asian food meccas still farther east has made substantial drives inland more appealing to foodies. Pasadena also draws sophisticated diners from San Marino, one of the country's wealthiest communities, but one with comparatively few dining options.
More broadly speaking, Child's lifelong campaign to elevate Americans' dining standards has affected her hometown as much as anywhere else. Many of Le Cordon Bleu's students enroll after years spent watching the Food Network. Many local chefs grew up using Child's cookbooks.
The local palate has also grown more adventuresome with an influx of immigrants from Asia and Europe, often drawn by Caltech.
"After living so long in Hollywood and on the Westside, here it's a total paradise," says Laurent Quenioux, who came to Pasadena in 2006 after 22 years in West Hollywood.
He is the French-born executive chef at Vertical Wine Bistro, situated atop a quaint 100-year-old courtyard on Raymond Street in Old Pasadena and owned by Hollywood producer Gale Anne Hurd (of "Terminator" fame, and also a local). "For a restaurateur, for a chef, this is where you want to be."Los Angeles Times