American Masters Jacques Pepin

Tomorrow’s installment of the long-running PBS series is a profile of the great chef and teacher.


I’ve heard of Pepin but really knew nothing about him until just now when I looked up his Wiki entry. He seems to be one of a number of chefs who are much better known for their media work, rather than their actual restaurant cooking background.

We’re doing a cruise with Oceania in a few weeks. Pepin is the culinary consultant to Oceania. As I understand it, he has an overall consultancy, together with one of the ship’s four speciality restaurants bearing his name. I’m interested to eat the food. The online menu for the speciality restaurant seems packed with classic (i.e. old fashioned) French dishes - snails, frogs legs, lobster thermidor, etc. ). I’m curious to see how much the general cuisine has been Americanised from the original French. I suspect fairly significantly. For example, I see the bouillabaise contains lobster, something you wouldnt find in a traditional version.

There’s an easy-to-find video of him de-boning a chicken on the web, John. I may be easily impressed, but I thought it well worth a look.

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My impression was that he was one of the more influential ambassadors of Nouvelle Cuisine in the 1970s, without which we Merkins might still be eating massive fried fish sandwiches and plates of Chicken a la King as a special treat.

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Nor sure I understand the “might still be eating”.

The joys of a fish finger sandwich are an important part of the British gastropub lunch.


He and Julia Child demystified French cooking and piqued folks’ interest in “exotic” food. He’s a warm caring personality, the opposite of snobbish


The previous owner of my house claimed that Pepin designed my kitchen. Yeah, not so much unless he is vertically challenged with T-Rex arms.

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I an interview he mentioned that, after a horrible car accident that left him in the hospital for many months, he no longer had the ability to do the demanding work of running a restaurant. So he went into teaching, writing and television. And he is dearly beloved by many.


I think it’s only non-Europeans who think we’re snobbish. In fact, we’re not. It’s just we don’t really like foreigners.


In this case, I meant celebrity chefs specifically. I know lots of down to Earth Europeans. They aren’t celebrity chefs though. :slight_smile:

Jacques Pépin published two books in the 70s that soon came to be considered classics, La Methode and La Technique. Unfortunately I didn’t get either of them. I think that these books were the source of his fame.

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Thanks for the heads up. He is one of my favorites.
I love that he freezes everything he can for his soups and stocks.
Hates to waste anything.

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Pepin’s career began with apprentice-ship in post-war France in large hotel kitchens and he worked his way up – at an early age – to being De Gaulle’s chef. He emigrated to New York City and worked eventually for Pierre Franey to develop the menu and central production methods for the Howard Johnson restaurant chain in the 60s. (US folks over the age of 50 know the significance of this restaurant chain.) He’s opened and run restaurants, and taught after getting his degree at Columbia University. His autobiography, The Apprentice, is a wonderful and well-written book.

His media career came AFTER all of that. He’s very good at adapting traditional and very rich dishes for more contemporary tastes but not in a showy way.

I hope you have a great time.


Ha, apologies. Difficult to get across how truly awful our food was before the mid-70s.

We first visited America in 1980. I’d say that, on pre-internet trips, we did not eat at all well. It’s the old, old problem for the tourist that you don’t know about the great little place just round the corner that all the locals love. So you eat in the place that you can see from the hotel. Often a Denny’s! In fact, I’d rate the two worst restaurants meals I’ve eaten have been in America. Ever. Anywhere. One a place just off Times Square in NYC, the other in rural Virginia. Simply awful.

Much better with the internet. I can be planning to stay overnight in a small town, be able to look at, say, the top five TripAdvisor ratings, look at websites, make a booking, etc. Good eats become the norm. My only issue is that “the best” place in small town A is usually a very similar place to folk’s “best” in small town B - very often an almost European style bistro type place. So you can be eating quite samey food - unless you don’t go to the best and just get a burger one night.

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I’ve been in a lot of towns where the hamburger IS the best place in town.

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You’ve got the wrong impression of the man.

Including me. Loved his show with Julia!


Unsure what you mean. (Aside from calling me on my annoying syntax. Yep, that sentence was crap. Will try to do better!)

Pepin has often cited the nouvelle cuisine movement as the engine of his career. The fresh-ingredients & creativity part, not the overly-precious presentation stuff.

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I loved his “Cooking with Claudine,” his daughter as he instructed her on technique. He’s very warm, and his recipes aren’t fussy and overwrought, they are very homey and approachable. His manner is very warm and engaging.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2