Julia Child would have turned 100 years old today. As an author and television personality, Child introduced French cuisine to the mainstream American public and turned cooking into a daily adventure.
Child became fascinated with French food after moving to Paris in 1948. She studied cooking at the renowned Cordon Bleu school, and in 1961 co-authored the two-volume Mastering the Art of French Cooking. More than 2 million copies of the book have been sold, but Child is best known for her television appearances on a succession of programs, starting with The French Chef in 1962 and ending with Julia’s Casual Dinners in 1999, just three years before her death in 2002 at the age of 92.
In 2009 she was the subject of the film Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep. The movie is based on the real-life adventures of Julie Powell, who was greatly inspired by Child. “Something came out of Julia on television that was unexpected,” says Powell in a video at Biography.com. “She’s not a beautiful woman, but her voice and her attitude and her playfulness–it’s just magical. You can’t fake that. You can’t take classes to learn how to be wonderful. She just wanted to entertain and educate people at the same time. Our food culture is better for it.”
For a quick reminder of Child’s voice, attitude and playfulness–not to mention her considerable skill with a blowtorch–we bring you her memorable late-1980s appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, in which the resourceful Child adjusts to time constraints by changing a simple American hamburger into beef tartare gratiné.