Taste: An Evening with Jacques Pepin

As a child growing up in the cable TV-free wilds of Woodsboro, Maryland, we relied on our rooftop antennae to beam in our (very limited) entertainment. A favorite channel was PBS and many of my childhood television memories include their heavy hitters like Rick Steves, Wild America, Yan Can Cook, and Bob Ross. And at that time, Julia Child was sure to make regular appearances when the channel was switched on (Yes, kids, televisions used to have switches!).

Fast forward a few years to my teenage years, featuring purple hair and a spray painted pickup truck with numerous bumper stickers, including “Kill Your Television,” and not much TV was being watched by me. I pretty much left all those childhood PBS icons behind, more or less, until I started teaching high school.

First, a student recommended a PBS Remixed video to me with Fred Rogers encouraging viewers that they  could “grow anything in the garden of their minds.” (You should check out the Julia Child one too!) Second, I started graduate school and a food nerd classmate recommended Jacques Pepin’s autobiography, The Apprentice, to me; I really wasn’t too familiar with Pepin but trusted my friend’s recommendation.

Jacques Pepin The Apprentice
Jacques Pepin’s The Apprentice is a fun read for any food nerd or Francophile. (Image: Amazon)

Reading it, I found myself enthralled by the life of someone I only vaguely knew in connection with PBS and cooking with Julia Child. Pepin writes about growing up in post-war France and coming up through the French culinary system to his immigration to the United States and passing up a job cooking at the White House for Howard Johnsons. He is down to earth, kind, and positive. It was the type of book I found myself then recommending to anyone I knew that was passionate about food, France, or cooking.

Years later, intrigued by an article I saw online, “How Jacques Pepin Saved My Life” (read it!), I was reminded of just how appealing and personable Chef Pepin is. So when I flipped through a Smithsonian Associates catalog and saw “Jacques Pepin: Cooking for the Love of It” listed, I knew I had to go.

Jacques Pepin and granddaughter
The focus of Pepin’s new cookbook is on easy and fun family cooking. (Image: Smithsonian)

It was a fun evening, with Jacques Pepin and his granddaughter Shorey being interviewed on stage by The Washington Post’s food editor, Joe Yonan. The occasion was to promote Pepin’s 26th cookbook, A Grandfather’s Lessons.  We learned about Pepin’s life and philosophies as a chef and as a grandfather. His granddaughter shared endearing insights as well: “When you ask my grandfather what his guilty pleasure is, there is no such thing because there is no such thing as guilt with food.”

Jacques Pepin and granddaughter Shorey
It was touching to see the warmth and humor Pepin and Shorey shared.

The conversation ended with an open mic session in which the audience was invited to ask Pepin questions. After a lag of responsiveness to this invitation from the audience, I leapt up to be the first, formulating a (rambling) question as I walked toward the mic. It was thrilling to ask this culinary icon a question (“How can young people with no experience learn to cook?”), though his response wasn’t too helpful on a practical level (I don’t think my college would be too thrilled with the idea of under-21 students drinking wine to become more enthused about cooking!). Finally, we were onstage with Pepin to get our new cookbook autographed in a rather assembly line style process.

Jacques Pepin signs cookbook
Pay no mind to the food nerd lurking behind you, Chef Pepin.

Now, here’s where my blog post takes a different turn from this narrative, listing some of my favorite quotes from the evening. I’ve also listed links to YouTube videos of the evening below though the sound quality and Pepin’s accent do pose a challenge (I hope to transcribe them in the future). I’ve also listed some of my favorite quotes from the evening.

Jacques Pepin Quotes:

  • “There is no place as good as a kitchen for a kid.”
  • “Cooking with your mom or your dad is very visceral. You’ve got to get close to Mother Nature. You learn chicken is not a rectangle.”
  • “We did this show with Julia and she said, ‘We will cook and when it’s done, we’ll tell you’ …after a couple bottles of wine.”
  • “I am not really fat but I am short for my height.”

Jacques Pepin Video Clips:

Jacques Pepin reflects on classical French chef training vs. now.

Jacques Pepin explains how to avoid food waste.

Jacques Pepin enthuses about organ meats.

Jacques Pepin’s daughter and her spot-on Julia Child impression.

Jacques Pepin discusses how to cook quick meals with the help of your supermarket.

Jacques Pepin answers my long-winded question (I was excited!) about how to help college students learn to cook.

Are you familiar with Jacques Pepin and his cookbooks or shows? Please share in the comments. Thanks!

Check out my other French-flavored blog posts: Teach: An Ecstasy of French Cheeses and Taste: Ooo La La Lentils.

Want to learn more about Jacques Pepin? Click on the following links to purchase Pepin’s latest cookbook and some of my other favorites by him: A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey, Fast Food My Way, and The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. I will receive a portion of the sale from Amazon, which will go toward maintaining my blog. Thanks for your support!


4 thoughts on “Taste: An Evening with Jacques Pepin

  1. Oh how I live my life vicariously through your adventures. So wish I could have attended this. Love his shows on LPB (Louisiana Public Broadcasting). We watch them all the time. Maybe one of these days we’ll be neighbors.

    Like

  2. Christine I have only seen him a few times and a few of his shows but what I’ve seen I have really enjoyed and he seems like a super guy.

    Like

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