Jacques Pepin

Jacques Pepin in a Chef Jacket

Jacques Pepin is a true celebrity chef, a onetime personal chef for President  Charles de Gaulle whose classes stress cooking fundamentals for everyday cooks.  He was born December 18, 1935 in Bourg-en-Bresse, France but came to the United  States in 1959 and has lived there ever since. He studied at Columbia University  where he earned a B.A. in philosophy and an M.A. in French literature of the  eighteenth century. While studying at Columbia he worked in chef coats at the  world-renowned Le Pavilion restaurant. In 1960 he was invited by John F. Kennedy  to work as White House chef, but Pepin declined saying that he preferred  studying at Columbia, whose classes he found very exciting and stimulating. In  his biography, Pepin credited his liberal arts studies at Columbia with having  given him self-assurance.

Jacques Pepin believes that once the simple principles have been mastered the  student can improvise at will, creating uniquely delicious creations using plain  common sense and whatever ingredients happen to be at hand. Each of his master  classes stresses basic points, such as why one dish requires a thicker sauce  than another one does; or why certain greens require more assertive salad  dressings; or how to chop up onions in a way that keeps them fluffy and light;  or how to pan-fry a fish so that it stays crisp. Since he comes from a  restaurateur family, Pepin has spent his entire life in a chef jacket in  kitchens, and he doesn’t like wasting time or ingredients. He teaches his  students how to use leftover odds and ends in order to create fresh, new dishes.  He also teaches how to make stock from leftovers for use in seasoning other  dishes so that very little needs to be thrown out. He teaches his students to  move around the kitchen with minimal backtracking or wasted energy. Pepin avers  that the difference between being a successful chef, as opposed to a mere line  cook, lies in understanding and using the proper technique.

Pepin conducts master cooking classes throughout the world, and appears  regularly in a black apron on television. His first PBS television series,  The Complete Pepin, was based on his book La Technique, was  launched in 1997 and was a smash success. It was followed two years later with  his collaboration with Julia Child on the award-winning PBS series Julia and  Jacques Cooking at Home. More recently he has starred in PBS’Jacques  Pepin – Fast Food My Way which was based upon his 2004 book with the same  name and then Jacques Pepin – More Fast Food My Way. Pepin is author of  eighteen cookbooks, several of which are companion books to his television  series. He and his daughter Claudine cook on a current television series and  have published a companion cookbook. He is also a frequent contributor to  newspapers and magazines. Pepin is the dean of special programs of New York  City’s French Culinary Institute and he also teaches a Culture and Cuisine  course on French cooking history at Boston University. He writes a regular  column for Food & Wine. He lives in Madison, Connecticut with his  wife Gloria.

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