If Julia Child had simply accepted the well-trod path set before her, the world would be much less delicious. “I had to marry a conservative banker or lawyer. I would have played golf and tennis,” she once said. “I probably would have been an alcoholic!”

Instead, Julia traveled overseas, fell in love with Paul Child, moved to France and learned to cook. Better still, she brought her new knowledge home and shared it. “She changed the world of food for Americans,” Betsy West, one of the directors of Julia, a documentary hitting theaters on Nov. 12, tells Closer.

Along the way, the tall, never glamorous host of The French Chef “changed the kind of people we saw on TV,” West says, and helped open up opportunities for women in professional kitchens.

One of the most remarkable things about Julia’s story is how late in life she got started. “She didn’t discover her passion for food until she was 39,” says West. And Julia never had a thought to be on TV. She was simply promoting her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, when a small public-TV station saw her and offered her a show.

Julia, in theaters Nov. 12, also shares new details of her happy marriage to Paul Child.

How Julia Child Changed the World of Cooking for Good With Her 'Exuberance and Authenticity'
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The French Chef premiered in 1963 when Julia was 51. “Her exuberance and authenticity really connected with the audience and created a real cultural change,” says West, who notes that by the 1960s, Americans had become accustomed to convenience food, canned vegetables and TV dinners. “After Julia, people were demanding fresh good food, and they were discovering the joy of preparing dishes that taste good,” she says.

Best of all, Julia inspired confidence in kitchen novices. “My point is to make cooking easy for people so they can enjoy it and do it,” she said. “It should be and is everybody’s pleasure.”