The Hilarious Julia Child Cooking Fail On David Letterman's Late Night Show

Julia Child changed the world. She took the culinary training she received in France and came home to write cookbooks that still inspire home cooks, chefs, and filmmakers. Her 1963 cooking program, "The French Chef," introduced haute cuisine to countless Americans' homes. And her work teaching her fans to cook, dine, and drink continued for another half-century, per PBS.

Aside from taking the airs out of seemingly highfalutin cuisine, Child had the confidence to show viewers her mistakes. As television chef Sara Moulton said to CNN, "She felt that making a mistake was a good thing just so that she could then show you how to fix it." 

That grace under fire and can-do attitude defined Child's work. In that episode, her skillet flip didn't pan out perfectly. She soldiered on, remarking, "Anytime anything like this happens, you haven't lost anything. Because you can always turn this into something else."

No heat? No problem

Julia Child meant what she said — and one of her most epic fails was on a massive stage. YouTube has preserved her December 1986 visit to "Late Night with David Letterman," where she meant to make a hamburger. 

As Letterman watched her mix the ground beef with grated onion, there was an incredible bit of foreshadowing when he asked if she ever made anything that didn't work. Without any hesitation, she responded, "Yes. Lots of times," before admitting that those were fed to her husband.

Between some playful banter about "Good Morning America," Child realized the burner wasn't working. And even in the face of a live audience and a beloved talk show host, she proceeded to change course and go with beef tartare. Eventually, Child pulled out a blowtorch to melt some Swiss cheese onto the tartare. With that, "beef tartare au gratin" was born.

Letterman was a big fan of Child

Despite David Letterman spitting the first bite into a napkin, his banter with Julia Child over her impromptu beef tartare was infectious. (In fairness to Child, he took a second bite and admitted it was "not bad at all" (via YouTube).) 

Child's "Late Night" visits spanned more than a decade and never failed to disappoint. YouTube has a collection of those visits, which are sprinkled with many classic Julia Child-isms. There's good reason they rank as some of Letterman's best food segments, according to Yahoo.

During Child's first "Late Night" visit, Letterman's admiration and respect for her was clear. Ever inquisitive, she asked a behind-the-scenes question about the show's in-studio audio and Letterman's microphone. After a quick explanation, Letterman handed her a promotional sponge. She immediately identified it as a good sponge and proceeded to store it in the waist of her skirt.