Jacques Pepin:
TV Chef, Author
Culinary Guru
From the RK Archives
December, 2015

With the announcement of his retirement after the end of this last season of his popular PBS cooking shows, Jacques Pepin is taking a few well-deserved victory laps. This month KQED is showing a special for the Chef's birthday (December 18). The new series, "Heart and Soul" is his 13th for the public broadcasting network. Additionally Pepin has authored over two dozen cookbooks (La Technique, Today's Gourmet I & II, Cooking with Julia, The Apprentice, My Life in the Kitchen)

I was pleased and excited for the opportunity to meet and interview Chef Pepin back in 2003 to discuss his latest book at the time, "The Apprentice, My Life in the Kitchen" (Houghton Mifflin). Here is the article I wrote at the time and the interview.


Many thanks for the years of dedication and instruction, Chef.

From the archives, 2003:

Meeting a culinary icon can be daunting. For me, Jacques Pépin is the mountaintop guru of fine cooking. Thankfully, he is not that hard to approach, and I didn't have to climb a French alp to talk to him. He was passing thru San Francisco talking about his new book, a memoir entitled "The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen" (Houghton Mifflin).

His soft-spoken patience is evident as we met. Yet there is the energy of a person who obviously loves his work. I tell him that, in reading his new book, I am impressed with his story-telling abilities. He does, after all, have a degree in Literature from Columbia University, something he picked up along the way.

The Chef, the Storyteller

The book starts his story in his sixth year. It was war-time, his father was away, his mother had his baby brother to care for, and it was summertime. He was sent to the country to live with a family on a farm. The story starts with the bittersweet tears of separation and continues with his discovery of food as a way of life.

The years of apprenticeship were structured, disciplined and, at time, harsh. But he and his fellow chefs-to-be knew no different. It was not a training that would be considered "politically correct" when viewed through the eyes of one in 2003. Working his way from provincial inns to the top restaurant in Paris, Jacques tells a compelling story: one with a healthy dose of hard work and plain-dumb luck. If anyone prepared himself for the opportunities that presented themselves, it was Jacques Pépin.

In the service, he eventually landed in the kitchen of the French Prime Minister. And it was there he witnessed a new direction in French politics. In a night of pandemonium and confusion in the Prime Minister's palace, a new government was installed with the elevation of Charles de Gaulle to the top post. With the future of his country teetering in the balance, Jacques cooked. In typical self-effacing style, Jacques writes: "Fittingly, my vantage point to history-in-the-making was the crack between two swinging kitchen doors."

All that was many years before he became a television personality. The road in-between includes stints working in the kitchens of fine French restaurants in New York City and in the vast test kitchens of Howard Johnson's. Also small stops along the way for the events of life, a family vacation in Spain, his marriage to Gloria, the birth of his daughter, Claudine. There is sadness in the passing of his father and brothers.

Interspersed are favorite recipes, his mother's deviled eggs: "Les Oeufs Jeannette"; Roast Leg of Lamb Provencal, a favorite of de Gaulle; and New England Clam Chowder, from his days at Howard Johnson's, and many more.
Links and info:
Eggs Janette
Recipe:
Website:
http://ww2.kqed.org/jpepinheart/
Books:
• The Aprentice
• All Jacques Pepin's books on Amazon
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