Julia Child Shows David Letterman How to Cook Meat with a Blow Torch

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.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.