Talks at Google Presents Jacques Pepin

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 19.04.2012

>>Jeffrey Freburg: Hi, everyone. Welcome.
[crowd chatter]
So, it's a real pleasure of mine to introduce our guest today, Chef Jacques Pepin. He actually
taught me how to cook when I was a little kid, so it's really a treat for me to talk
to you today. So, welcome to Google.
>>Jacques Pepin: Thank you.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, you're here to talk about your new book, and--.
>>Jacques Pepin: That's what I'm here for.
>>Jeff Freburg: Yes.
>>Jacques Pepin: OK. Good.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, well, hopefully we can get you a little lunch, too, on top of that.
>>Jacques Pepin: All right.
>>Jeff Freburg: But really love the book. It seems like a great recipe bank, but one
thing that I really liked about it was the discs that you included, with all techniques.
>>Jacques Pepin: Yes.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, you wanna talk about that a little bit?
>>Jacques Pepin: Yes. Probably I would agree with you. The DVD that I have in there, three
hours of technique, ran from tightening your apron to sharpening a knife to boning out
a chicken, making an omelet, doing a caramel cage.
All of those are very visual and very difficult to explain in word. It take page and page
for me to tell you how to do a cornet with a piece of wax paper. You know, to do decoration.
Fold it in the right angle, cross it in the center of the hypotenuse, your [inaudible
] your right hand. Fold it. You see it done. Yeah. You see it done and it's that's the
beauty of it.
And I am Dean of Study at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. And I teach at
BU, Boston University, for about 31 years. Something like that. I live in Connecticut,
as you see by my Yankee drawl.
So, and in those school, I mean, this is the technique that we teach. Fifty, forty-five
thousand dollars at the French Culinary Institute for the program. But that's basically it,
you know? And the technique for me are very important.
It's a question of repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, so that it becomes so much part of
yourself that now you can afford to forget it. Now, I can think in term of color or texture
stuff and my hands are just moving. And certainly, for anyone who work in the--. Can you hear
me OK? Yeah. Anyone who work with his hand, whether you are a cabinet maker, whether you
are a surgeon for that matter, a sculptor, a painter and all that, you first have to
become a craftsman in my book.
And if you happen to have talent, then the craftmanship in your hand enable you to take
that talent somewhere and do something with it. So, if you're a good craftsman, you can
run a restaurant. I knew a fair amount of chef who run restaurant, but they are relatively
lousy cook. But they are a good craftsman, so they run the place fine.
Someone has a lot of talent and you can take that--if you are Thomas Keller or someone
like this and you can really bring it to extraordinary food, or to great food maybe. And if you put
a bit of love into it, then it make it to extraordinary food and so. So, I am very happy
with that DVD. I do that, I mean, I've been teaching or doing show on television here,
actually at KQED for the last 25 years.
I've done 12 series of 26 show here in the last. And out of that book, there is a series
now, which is here. I think it's Saturday morning, my show here at KQED. So, we did
26 show usually series. Twenty-six show for some reason on PBS. And I have four, five
recipe in each of those series. I have my daughter on it and my granddaughter.
I have my friend Jean-Claude. So, this is part of the book as well. And it's always
better to see it done than just to read it. But the recipes themselves, I didn't even
want to do that book. This is, I think, number 27, my books which I have done many book.
And that book a kind of recap of recipe book which were out of print that we start looking
at again.
So, I started doing about 25 hundred recipe there, a lot where we don't have. I look at
salmon. I see three or four salmon. They have tomato in it. So, I eliminate and so forth.
And the point is, well, either to leave it the way it was--. I think the New York Times
did a big book last year, the "New York Times Cookbook," the last 30, 40 years.
And they left the recipe the way they were at that time. And it was just to show people.
So, it was either this for me or change them to make them usable and more in the style
of what we do today. And I choose the second option. And it end up being more work than
doing a book. [laughs] So, from scratch, we don't cook the vegetable in the same amount
of time.
Fish also--amount of cooking. The amount of fat that we put in it, the type of fat—from
butter to cream to olive oil to--all change a great deal. There are a fair amount of changes.
But anyway, so it came out in the fall last year. And we did that series on television.
It started. And I was supposed to be here last fall to publish, to do a book tour, which
I did part of it.
And all of a sudden, I had to have a hip replacement, so I was stuck for a little while. The beauty
of getting old, you know? And now I'm back. So.
>>Jeff Freburg: Yeah. And so, I watched your DVD and one thing that I found very interesting
is that you mentioned that like, through your career, you changed your technique. Do you
wanna talk about that and how you changed and what you did?
>>Jacques Pepin: Well, actually I don't know. I think I said I don't change my technique.
Can that, the--. Yeah. A little bit, but I have a book called "La Technique," an illustrated
manual of cooking technique. Very large book, which have three thousand picture, black and
white. [clears throat] I did that book in '76, I believe, the book called "La Technique,"
and a follow-up called "La Methode," who are looking for a similar name.
And eventually, those two book got together, which is that large book. Well, that book
got a prize two years ago in Europe for whatever and I won, at the IACP--International Association
Culinary Professional--was in New York two weeks ago, as one of the greatest book of
well, the last half-Century or whatever. And not saying that to brag, but maybe a little
bit, but--
the point is that book is still in print because the technique are the same--the way you sharpen
a knife, the way you beat an egg white, the way you do an omelet. All of that have never
changed. I mean, my recipe are quite different than they would have been 25, 30 years ago,
but the technique themself are the same.
And that's why you try to teach technique in a professional school. That is, teaching
you how to cook. And then, after you take it and you do something else with it. I mean,
as a young chef, it's not too complicated. All you have say is, "Yes, Chef." Chef never
asks your opinion. So, you work with someone for a year, year and a half.
Someone like Thomas Keller at Bouchon, if you have the chance to. And you're idea there,
really, is to try to visualize the food through his eyes, through his sense of aesthetic,
and through his talent because that's why you work there--to work with someone like
that. So, you absorb as much as you can. And you move to that area of New York and you
do the same thing for another two years.
Then, you move to Jean-Georges or whatever and do the same thing for another two years.
And after five, six year, that young chef had absorbed an enormous amount of material
just saying, "Yes, Chef." At that time, you kind of--excuse the pun--but you can regurgitate
it. But now, you filter it through your sense of aesthetic, your sense of taste.
And now, you start doing your food, but not before that really. It does take time. What
am I talking about anyway?
>>Jeff Freburg: Oh, nothing.
That was great. So, I heard a really interesting fact. At the time you were offered the job
with the Kennedy's to be the Chef at the White House and you turned it down to work for Howard
Johnsons. I'd like to hear more about that.
>>Jacques Pepin: Not a big deal.
It's not really. I mean, I had been the chef in France from '56 to '59 to three Presidents.
I finished with de Gaulle in '59. So, I came to this country. I work at Le Pavillon in
New York. I was going to stay here two years in New York.
Most people come to America to get a better life for economic reason, religious reason,
political reason, too. It wasn't my case. I work at Le Pavillon, which was considered
maybe the greatest restaurant, French restaurant, in America at that time. And I worked there
and Howard Johnson was one of our customer, Howard D. Johnson, the one who created the
But in the Spring of 1961, Kennedy were very regular at the house, start to planning for
the White House, so they called me. At that time, it was very casual. I mean, did they
call the owner of La Caravelle, the restaurant which called Roger, the chef. Roger called
me. I said, "I don't think so." Pierre Franey was at the Le Pavillon, was leaving to go
to Howard Johnson and he said, "Come with me," and so forth.
So, he had no idea, to be truthful, of the inkling of the possibility of publicity from
the White House and all that because he did not exist. So, you have to realize that 30
years ago, I would never have been sitting here. The chef at the bottom of the social
scale and when I was in Paris, when I worked with the French President, I served people
like Eisenhower, Nehru, Tito, Maximilan--those that were Head of State at the time.
No one ever would come to the kitchen, not even a thank you or whatever. You'd never
even have a thank you or anyone thanks. Someone comes to the kitchen because something was
wrong. And then you get it. But otherwise, never, you never. So, that was the way it
was. I mean, I'm not complaining. It was the way it was for everybody.
So, when I was asked to go to the White House, I had no idea of the possibility of publicity.
I'd never been in a newspaper, in a magazine, television barely existed. So, that was--.
Any good mother would have wanted her child to marry a doctor, a lawyer, an architect,
but certainly not a cook, you know?
Now, we are genius. So, I don't know what happened.
In any case, to validate my choice, this is I did that certainly because of that. I didn't
realize. But it was very good. I worked ten years Director of Research for Howard Johnson.
I did work like specific gravity and coliform and that area stuff. I learned the American
eating habit.
I worked in a totally American environment. So, it was very good for me. I opened the
World Trade Center in 1973, I believe. Yeah, '73. I opened a restaurant first when I left
Howard Johnson on 5th Avenue in New York called La Potagerie. It was a place with a very high
volume to some group of investor wanted to do that, so I created the concept, the name,
and I did thing.
Then I opened the World Trade Center in 1974. I did a commissary on the list for the two
tower. And we had 26 restaurants on the main course. And that, in addition, Window of the
World, Skyline on 44th Street and so forth. I have to say that the commissary that I had
under Tower One was blown out in 1993 by a guy who brought the truck there with bomb
in it, you know?
A terrorist. And they blew out that part of the building, the terrorists. And then after,
of course, they blew the whole things. After that, I work, I was a consultant for the Russian
Tea Room in New York, too.
I am staying only on those job because I could never have been able to do the commissary
at the World Trade Center, or that soup place, or the Russian Tea Room, if I hadn't had the
training of Howard Johnson that I had. As a chef, I didn't know anything about production,
stuff like this. So, Howard Johnson was very good to me--
>>Jeff Freburg: Great.
>>Jacques Pepin: in that way.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, what are some of your fondest food memories?
>>Jacques Pepin: Fondest food memories are always sitting down with my wife or my mother
or my kid or friend. Friend is always the fondest. I mean, food itself is nothing in
itself. The sharing of the food and on the table and all that is what makes it. I mean,
this is maybe the most civilized way of having a conversation--around food--and discuss it.
So, that's important. In my family, it's, of course, with bread and wine there is always
bread and wine on the table [laughs] so we can see a meal. Without a basket of bread
and a bottle of wine. And I've been married 45, almost 46 years. And I don't remember
one day that my wife and I didn't sit down for dinner--don't have time really for lunch.
We sit a little bit for lunch, but having dinner and drinking wine, often two bottles
of wine,
but the point is if I start cooking at four o'clock in the afternoon, I happen to have
a bottle of wine--white wine--and then, by the time we sit down to eat at seven, eight
o'clock, it's gone. So, we open a bottle of red wine.
So, now when I go see my doctor, he say "How much wine do you drink?" I've decided to only
buy my wine in magnum now--
because I say, "One bottle a day." Then, I avoid problem.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, you mentioned that you were cooking with your daughter and your granddaughter.
Are they good cooks as well? Has that been a good bonding experience for you?
>>Jacques Pepin: Well, my wife is a good cook. My wife was born in New York City from a Puerto
Rican mother and a Cuban father, so she's a real New Yorker. That's why that book, often
I maybe looked at on the quintessential French chef, you get to page--I don't know--32 and
you have black bean soup with banana and cilantro on top, which is really Cuban.
Next, you have ceviche. Next, you have whatever. That represent the last 50 years in my life
for me in America. So, it's a very American cookbook in that sense. I do have some true
French technique and French recipe, but in a sense, I don't try to be French. And by
the same token, I don't try not to be French.
I don't really think about it in those terms. I cook whatever is around. And I have a place
in Mexico. Just came back ten weeks. So, I go there, buy a bandera, look at a paper and
can start cooking with that. So, that make its way into recipe. And the series that I
did before, I did two series on PBS prior to this one.
I've done 12 here, but two series, the last two, were called "Fast Food My Way." And those
were, each one of them has a little book, and those are very easy recipe to follow through.
Maybe the best, maybe the recipe that people use maybe the most. What I did there in those
book, when you are in a professional kitchen, you have the prep cook who came in the morning.
"La maison plas," we call it in French. So, the prep cook bone out the chicken, bone out
the fish, slice the mushroom, shell the shallot, wash the spinach, they do all that stuff.
Shove the tomato and all that, so you have everything ready. I get to the stove, everything
is fresh ready. Someone order filet of sole. I grab the filet of sole ready.
I put some shallots on top, a bit of sliced mushroom, dash of white wine, bit of olive
oil, bring it to a boil, finish it up. I do it in three, four minutes, five minutes. Why?
Because everything is ready. So, that what the premise is in those book. I use the supermarket
as a prep cook. I can go there, buy two breast of boneless, skinless chicken.
I use a no-stick pan. I have pre-wash spinach, pre-sliced mushroom, whatever I can buy at
the market. And with minimum amount of effort, fresh food, I can do a menu. In fact, when
we did that, those show are half an hour. I did three dish. I never use the back kitchen.
I did those three dish, or four dish sometime, in the 30 minutes that I was on television.
So, it's a nice way of cooking, too. A bit different from that, you know? And certainly,
at the [inaudible] if you want of my book on technique, where if I don't show you how
to prep the chicken, and goose, too. I used to. Skin the rabbit and then cut it and eviscerate
it and so forth, that's cooking from the beginning. It's another way of doing it, you know?
>>Jeff Freburg: So, what was the last meal that you made?
>>Jacques Pepin: Last meal that I made. OK. When did I leave home? I was in Pebble Beach
Thursday, Friday, Saturday for the Food and Wine Festival. Then, I was in Phoenix on the
PBS station. I did like, five show and other things. And I came here on Monday. So, Friday.
Wednesday night we went out for dinner.
I think Tuesday, the Tuesday before I did a chicken. Oh, no. The last time I cooked
was in Pebble Beach. I did a chicken in vinegar. They are the most special with my daughter,
which I have in there. Chicken in vinegar, which I thought was really good.
[Jeff Freburg laughs]
I mean, I haven't done that in 25 years. I didn't even remember it. I say, "Wow. That's
And I did a mashed potato, turnips, turnips and potato, mashed potato with garlic in it,
and some apple fritter.
>>Jeff Freburg: OK.
>>Jacques Pepin: So, that's what I did. Yeah.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, what are some of the things that you really like to cook? What are some
of your favorite ingredients?
>>Jacques Pepin: The market, you know? The market and the season for me, that will define.
But I mean, certainly, I could be on an island if there is chicken and eggs. Eggs, for me,
I love eggs. But people say, "What's the best thing you can put in your mouth?" Well, if
I have the greatest possible bread that I can take and the greatest possible butter,
very hard to beat bread and butter, I tell you.
And that being said, there is many other thing you cook, but--.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, what are some of your favorite restaurants in San Francisco? And
where are you going to be eating while you're here?
>>Jacques Pepin: That's a leading question, right?
But certainly, to paraphrase James Beard, I think who said the best restaurant is where
they know you, and it's true in many ways. I'll go see my friend [inaudible]--
>>Jeff Freburg: Yeah.
>>Jacques Pepin: too. I stay at the, I used to love Ter Posterie. I stay at the Prescott
Hotel now. Now, it's closed, too. But there is so many other restaurant that I go to here.
I mean, tonight I'm going to be. Tonight? Yes. Yeah. City, City Center. Whatever there
is that. And I'm being carried by Daniel Patterson, from Coi, you know?
And while La Folie, this is a great restaurant. I mean, two star in the Michelin. It's extraordinary.
With that being said, if I'm here for a while, when I come and we film, we end up in Chinatown
a fair amount of time. I love Chinese food and other type of Oriental food. As well as
when you go down Post, you turn underneath that alley. I forget. Something Alley and
there is--.
>>male #1: Belden?
>>Jacques Pepin: Ah?
>>male #1: Belden, maybe?
>>Jacques Pepin: There is a Spanish restaurant there. There's a French restaurant. Three
or four, five little restaurant. Really good, especially the Spanish one.
>>Jeff Freburg: OK.
>>Jacques Pepin: I forget the name of it, though. But--.
>>male #1: Belden. B-E-L-D-E-N.
>>Jacques Pepin: B-E-A-L?
>>male #1: B-E-L. Belden.
>>Jacques Pepin: Oh, yeah. I think so. Yes. Right. Yeah.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, when people found out I was gonna talk to you today, everyone wanted
me to ask you about Julia. So, do you care to talk about that?
>>Jacques Pepin: No. I mean, actually, I just did a tribute to her yesterday for KQED. And
I had another one at the IACP here. I speak with the tape. And then, I'm doing one with
the WNET in New York, WGBH in Boston, W--. There are gonna be her hundredth birthday,
on the twelve of August. So, people are doing a tribute to her.
I met Julia in 1961, or '60. 1960. Food world was really, really small. And I say, "Well,--."
Craig Claiborne was the food editor of the New York Time, which many people have forgotten
as one of the most important figure in food in the last half a century. And James Beard.
And Julia, James Beard, Craig Claiborne, were very, the trinity of cooking in this country.
When I work at Le Pavillon there in 1959-60, Craig came to Le Pavillon to do an article
on Le Pavillon and Pierre. And I became friend with him. He introduced me to Helen McCullough.
Helen McCullough was the food editor of McCall House Beautiful. And she was never married.
She was an old lady and she took me under her wing.
I mean, she was kind of my surrogate mother. "Don't wear those stupid socks. Don't wear
this." You know? That type of thing. And, but she spoke with James Beard on the telephone,
like two hours every day. So, through her, I knew James Beard a few weeks later. And
in the Spring of 1960, Helen told me, "Here. I have a manuscript. I want you to look at
that manuscript I received there."
I said, "Yes, it's pretty good. Very nice. Explain." So, she said, "Well, the woman is
from California. She's coming to New York next week. Let's cook for her." She was a
big woman with a terrible voice--
but for a cook, that was Julia. So, first time I met her, I spoke French with her. Actually,
my French was better than my English. And that was 1960. So, at that point, no one knew
her because television did not exist.
She didn't do any television. And she had never written a book, of course. And she never
wrote for a magazine, newspaper, whatever. So, she wasn't known. She just came from France.
She had been at Le Courdon Bleu for a number of years. So, that's how I met her. So, we
stay friend. And then, she lived in Cambridge.
So, I teach at BU, as I said, for 31 years now. So, each time I go to BU, I call her
for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and then we started doing classes for the student at BU
just for fun.
>>Jeff Freburg: Mm-hmm.
>>Jacques Pepin: And I said, "Well, let's do a special for PBS on that." So, we did
"Cooking in Concert," a two-hour special for PBS. We did at BU. In a couple of years, we
did another one. And we were giving a lot of class together and finally, we did a series
>>Jeff Freburg: So, what are some of the things that you're most proud of looking back on
your career?
>>Jacques Pepin: Well, it's to make people happy. That's what cooking is all about. It's
rewarding. In our time of political correctness, we cannot talk about gender, about size, about
color, about religion, about anything, so we talk about food--the only safe thing we
can talk about. So, that's what happened.
And spending time around the table. And yesterday, I was on the Michael Krasny Forum show, which
is a very good show. It's amazing the amount of people who call you and say, "You kind
of changed my life by [inaudible] my father." And all that, too. And I know I had that book,
"La Technique," like I said. And people used to say, "Can you sign that book for me? It's
A number of years went by and they say, "You know, my mother is crazy about you. Could
you sign that book for her?" And then now, people say, "You know, my grandmother really
likes you a lot."
Whoa. That book has been there.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, what do you think about the state of cuisine in America and where
do you think it's gonna be headed towards?
>>Jacques Pepin: Well, this is basically an impossible question because as I said, my
book here is probably a very American book now because the ethnicity in it and the change
and all that. I mean, if you go to France, people still each French 98, 99 percent of
the time. There is some Chinese or Italian restaurant, but basically, the cuisine is
this way.
It's part of your tradition. It's kind of visceral and that's how you eat. And that
the way it is in Italy. And that the way it is in Spain or in Portugal and Germany, for
that matter, too. But not America. People eat Turkish one night and they go to Chinese
one day, to especially in urban center like this, the center of the world.
And this is the reason why someone like me could come from another country and make it
to a certain extent, which would be difficult for--certainly much harder--for Chinese chef
or Greek chef, to make it in France or in another country in Europe. It's America that
that the way it is. And when I came here, I remember live in New York in Manhattan on
50th and 1st Avenue going to D'Agostino Brothers, typically fancy market, and asking, "Where
are the mushrooms?"
They say, "Aisle five." That was canned mushroom. You had to go to a specialty store just to
get regular, white button mushroom. There was only one salad in supermarket. That's
what I heard, but nothing else. There was no leek, no shallot, no Oriental vegetable,
none of the vegetables. It's amazing.
So certainly, the supermarket have never been as beautiful as they are now. It's just amazing.
And people already saying "no one cook anymore." Well, no one cook. I mean, what do they do
with the stuff at the supermarket?
At the end of the week, someone would dump it. Someone must be buying it. So, yes. It
has explode. And someone on television the other day was saying there is 407 television,
I mean, cooking television show on television, from The Cooking Channel, to the Food Channel
Network, from Travel, from Oxygen, from PBS, too.
That at the time when I was doing even the show with Julia, before it was pre-Food Channel
Networks, so, except for PBS, there wasn't that many thing going on in cooking. I'm still
on PBS. And for me, PBS is the best because I don't have to look out to the sponsor, I
do basically what I want to. It's--. And I'm faithful when I'm good somewhere. I stay.
So, that's what I did.
>>Jeff Freburg: Great. So, I'm gonna open up questions to our audience 'cause we have
a very inquisitive audience, I'm sure. And I'm sure they wanna ask you lots of questions.
>>Jacques Pepin: All right. Yes, sir?
>>male #2: I remember watching your shows that you did with your daughter. And I couldn't
help feeling that there was some frustration on your part with her cooking ability.
>>Jacques Pepin: I'm sorry. You know, my--. I'm getting old now. My hear is--.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, he was wondering, he saw you cooking with your daughter one time.
>>Jacques Pepin: Oh, yeah.
>>Jeff Freburg: And noticed some frustration on your face.
>>Jacques Pepin: Do you have kid?
I mean, yeah of course. I cook with her--.
I cooked with her last week in that series here. I have Claudine cook with me a couple
of show and my granddaughter, Shorey, cook with me, too. It was really fun. When Claudine
was small--. I mean, I never got baby food, you know? Whatever we cooked, I put it in
the blender and gave it to her. I mean, I stuffed the seasoning, too, so that she get
used to the taste of pasta with garlic or whatever.
It's kind of crazy. People, they are going to have pizza for the kids or buy food and
then, once a month everyone eat together or they have friend coming for dinner. The do
a roasted veal with artichokes and they send pizza for the kids or whatever. And then,
the kid get to be ten years old [clears throat] after his first communion or his bar mitzvah
or whatever, almost at once say, "Now, you eat that."
Kid say, "I won't eat that stuff. What is this? I never eat that in my life." You cannot
treat the kid this way. It has to eat exactly what you're eating. When Claudine was not
even a year old, in the kitchen, she was I gave her a spoon and she stir. I say, "Stir
it." So, she stir the pot. So, she stir when she made it.
And she was going to taste it, of course. And then, we always sit down for dinner. And
it's not like we eat a la carte and everyone is like, "I want this." No. Claudine comes,
three years old, she says, "Mom, what's for dinner?" My wife say, "Food."
And she still says that now she's 43. So, and with her daughter. So, yes. It's very
important. I mean, the kitchen is about the best place that a child can be in. After school,
come there to do your homework. The clinking of the noise of the kitchen, the voice of
your mother, the voice of your father, those smells, those tastes, that will stay with
you the rest of your life.
There's something very, very secure in there. You look at those kid in Afghanistan, 20,
22 years old in time of danger. What do you think they think of? They think of their mother
apple pie or the clam chowder or whatever it may be because those tastes are more than
the food itself. There is a security to this there with others.
I think was a Chinese philosopher who say "What is patriotism? It's only the taste of
the dishes you had as a child." And there's a great deal of truth in this.
>>Jeff Freburg: Great. Thank you. Anyone else?
All right. Come on. We have a food legend here.
>>female #3: Building on top of that question. What's your first memory in the kitchen as
a child?
>>Jacques Pepin: My first memory in the kitchen as a child, I think I discuss it. I have a
book called "The Apprentice," which I did before that guy did that show called "The
And it's a cook's memoir, you know? And I left home when I was 13 to go into formal
apprenticeship. But when I left home, home was a restaurant where my mother was a chef.
So, from age, I don't know, five, six, I was in the kitchen and my aunt had restaurant.
What I talk about there [clears throat] an instance which happened to me during the war
in France. I was, I think, five years old or so.
And I was sent to a farm for the summer. [clears throat] Excuse me. We really didn't have much
to eat. But there, we knew during the vacation we going to a farm where there is cow. And
then, there is butter and milk and stuff like this. And I remember my mother taking me there
and leaving me there with the farmer.
And I went, the farmer took me to the barn where the woman was milking the cow there.
And I was sad. I mean, my mother left. I was a little kid. So, she gave that glass of milk
there--transforming and still warm from the, right out of the teats. And that probably
one of the first remember that I--. Because especially at that time, that wasn't that
We really didn't have milk for lunch or something to drink. But that was a powerful memory.
An old one, too.
>>Jeff Freburg: Yes.
>>female #4: What would you eat for your last meal? I know there would be bread or wine,
but what else would you put--?
>>Jacques Pepin: Bread and butter. Well, we did, yeah. See, all of those--. I got a book
published a couple of years ago, "My Last Meal." There's like 50 chef and I'm part of
them. If it has to be my last meal, it would have to be very, very, very, very, very long
to stop me.
So, maybe a year or so.
And through that, from a ham sandwich to ham and egg to hot duck to caviar to Dom Perignon
to roasted squab to--everything is in there. I think that I like to eat.
>>Jeff Freburg: Anyone else? Yes.
>>Jacques Pepin: Yes, ma'am.
>>female #5: With all the new types of tools that you can use in the kitchen, is there
certain things that I guess have come out since when you started cooking till now that
you really think are great to have in the kitchen that you recommend?
>>Jacques Pepin: You think about equipment?
>>Jeff Freburg: Yeah. Like, maybe your favorite hand tool or Peltex.
>>Jacques Pepin: Yeah. Well, you know you can't beat the rubber spatula.
I mean, I was an apprentice pre-rubber spatula. Rubber spatula and plastic wrap, right. Very
good. We didn't have it. A good vegetable peeler. You need a good knife. And a good
knife is a sharp one, regardless of the brand.
You have to be able to have an overripe tomato, run it on top of it and it cut right through
it and it's probably a good knife. A good board, you know? Solid. A good pot a good
knife. I mean, very basic equipment. Two or three piece and that's all you need, frankly.
We have a pot in France, we call a pot like that.
And it's called a "l'effet tu." L'effet tu meaning do all. That the name, l'effet tu.
And when I was a kid, I don't remember my mother ever cooking anything else but l'effet
tu there. It's like a wok for the Chinese basically. So, yeah. You can use and reuse,
too. I mean, it's great to have type of kitchen that have equipment and you need three knife.
I mean, you need a large knife to chop. And you need a utility knife and a small one.
That being said, I probably have 300 maybe at home or more.
So, no. Good equipment is important. And good ingredient is the primary thing. If you have
good ingredient, good equipment, the less you screw it up, the better it is. And that
what food is all about--going to the market, getting a few things. I mean, now we are very
big with organic things and with farmer and all that.
But, of course, in this country it's all really the same. You go one way, people get berserk.
I mean, I have been to restaurant. They come and they bring you a carrot that say, that
carrot's name is Evan. It was born with 700--.
Give me a break. Give me the carrot. I mean, it can go too far the other way, too. But
it's certainly good. I mean, my mother, my father, were both organic farmer. Of course,
the word "organic" did not exist.
But the chemical fertilizer did not exist, either. And fungicide, insecticide, pesticide
did not exist either for everyone with an organic farmer. You want, get some cow or
horse manure or chicken manure and place and you do the gardens. So, it's not that we don't
know how to do it going back to this. So, and that what's going on now.
So, going back to your question. The food has been exploding here. A revolution in the
last 30 years. It should be totally amazing. And I know I've been part of it. And it seem
to be going on and on, so that's great.
>>Jeff Freburg: So, let me just ask you a real quick question. What do you think of
sous vide?
>>Jacques Pepin: Sous vide is good. With sous vide, that's what I use at Howard Johnson
in 1960. It was called cryovacs at that time. It was sous vide. We used to cook the thing
this way at low temperature and so forth. But if you're talking about--. Yeah, there
is a great deal of things you can use with that.
Terrific. And but you may be talking about molecular cuisine or stuff like that, too,
more advanced like Ferran Adria. I was with Ferran Adria on actually three weeks ago.
I went at the Food and Wine Festival in Cancun. It was the first time they did it. And Ferran
came--some other Spanish chef, too. And it is an amazing thing.
I mean, what they do. It can be tiring, too. I mean, basically it seems especially done
by someone else with not as talented as those chef are. And too badly it end up being, the
whole idea is to stump you with "Wow. What is that?" And you bite and it's liquid inside.
"Whoa." But after a while, it get tiring.
But, or then they give you an ice cream cone. And you bite it and it's mashed turnips or
whatever. So, your brain is already working throughout that taste. It cuts you in half.
And this is--. I had that in China 25 years ago, eating with the monk, which were eating--.
I had duck. I had chicken. I had all of this and it was all soybeans, done, set in type
of cuisine.
And that was amazing, that type of cuisine. But you are actually in town here, Jean Paul
Gaultier, which is a French designer, very extreme doing stuff like, I don't know, Madonna
or Lady Gaga or whatever. I mean, the weirdest stuff. So, you see the model working down
the walkway wearing those enormous, you say, "Oh my God. Who's going to wear that stuff?"
And yes, about five or ten years later, it trickles down to the pret-a-porter, to a certain
extent. So, in a sense, the cuisine of Ferran Adria, that type of extreme, now you get that.
Then, it down trickle down eventually. Do just like nouvelle cuisine did. Before I came
to, when I was in France, work at the Plaza Athenee in Paris, Maxim, Fouquet, great restaurant.
We would never, never have served something on a plate. Even more so, my mother with that
small restaurant, my aunt, they all have full restaurant, for worker. I mean, very inexpensive
type of restaurant. Nothing was ever, ever, ever on a plate. You just bring, if you have
a little piece of fish, you bring it on a platter, too.
Even at home, my mother, she would do a roast whatever, put it in the center of the table.
Then, we had bowl salad. But never, never set on a plate. Nouvelle cuisine came in the
'70s, over-sized plates. Chefs started arranging stuff, too. And now, you don't have a chef
who would serve anything else, but serving something on a plate.
So, that's a legacy of nouvelle cuisine as well as cooking vegetable different way--other
type of things, of course. So, it trickled down eventually.
>>Jeff Freburg: Great answer. Yes.
>>male #6: So, what do you think about the future of French cuisine and also French culinary
>>Jacques Pepin: Ah-hah.
>>male #6: [inaudible]
>>Jacques Pepin: Yeah, that's a good point. It's quite different. Yet, however, you go
to France, people are really not too aware of this. You still have a lot of very good
restaurant. Unfortunately for most American, they look at French cooking in the context
of star restaurant. You do have to two star and one, three star here in the California,
which is amazing.
And in New York, we have more. I mean, there is only 21, I think, 21 three-star restaurant
in France. There's about 80 or so two-star and maybe 400 one-star, with 500, 600 in the
whole star system. But there is 146 stars in restaurants in France, I believe. But Americans,
they are from--especially years ago--would go to France and eat like in three four-,
three-star restaurant in a week.
Of course, it's an overload of truffle and reduction of cream and stuff like this. That's
what that type of restaurant is. But when I was taking group with BU, Boston University,
we go maybe to one one-star, sometime one two-star, but other than that, I take them
to brasserie, bistro, too. And they say, "Wow. This is French cooking?"
I say, "This was more Italian like a roast with the juice, or a puree of potato or whatever."
Which is basically what people eat. I mean, I'll go on the road when I'm in France and
I go to like, La Ferme in Auberge, the farm in. There is a little book for that. And more
than 60 percent of what you eat there has to be produced by that farm.
Sometimes, it's 80, 90 percent. I've been to some farm. I remember one time I was in
the Gerar area, the Northeast part of France near Alsace, with my wife and another couple.
And I saw a sign Ferme Auberge, a piece of wood on the road. We follow that small road.
Then, at the corner of the road, I saw a house there.
It was, I said, "It's probably in there." So, I saw some chicken coming out, a pig in
the courtyard. I go in and there was a little girl doing her homework at the table. I say,
"Is that the farm Auberge?" She said, "Yes." I say, "You think we can eat?" She said, "Just
call my mom." So, she called her mom who came with her apron and then her father came. There
was no one.
And her father say, "OK. I'm gonna go shave." I say, "You don't have to shave." He say,
"I'll go pick up wild mushroom." I said, "Better idea."
And so, he went to pick up mushroom. She cooked whatever they cooked that day, probably cost
her six or eight dollars per person. And this is the type of food that I like to eat more.
Granted occasionally, I'll eat at PER SE and all those great restaurant, but this is naturally
what food memory are made of. It's not visceral enough.
>>Jeff Freburg: Anyone else?
>>female #7: So, I love to cook, but there's one thing I still hate doing. I've done much
more challenging things, but I can't stand chopping cilantro. It sticks to my hands.
And I was just wondering if you have any weird little things like that, that you just hate
>>Jacques Pepin: To clean up your hand?
>>female #7: No, no. Just like, chopping onions or chopping cilantro or whatever. I'm sure
you do much more challenging things, but--.
>>Jacques Pepin: Yeah. Well, you have to look at that tape there. I mean, all of the technique
is in there. And all of those technique from, yeah, from cilantro whatever. I mean, I'm
always washing my hand, washing the sheer part of my board. It's almost a conditioned
reflex for me. But when I finish that, my wife come behind and rewash it anyway.
>>male #8: So, is there anything that you don't like to cook?
>>Jacques Pepin: Not really. I'm not crazy about coconut or marshmallow, but otherwise
I think I eat any kind of cuisine from other areas. Some stuff I like better than others,
but not really.
>>Jeff Freburg: Yes.
>>female #9: The same thing. Do you have any pet peeves when you dine out in restaurants?
Do you have anything that really gets to you?
>>Jacques Pepin: Dining out around here?
>>Jeff Freburg: Or anywhere.
>>female #9: Anywhere.
>>Jacques Pepin: Anywhere?
>>Jeff Freburg: Any place you went to dine out.
>>Jacques Pepin: Yeah, it's always great. I mean, as I said, where they know you the
best. I mean, I know some small little restaurant where I am. And for me, very often, instead
of working, I talk to a young chef and instead of doing something extraordinary that no one
has seen, I'm often being the devil's advocate, like at BU.
They say, "Well, what are we going to do today?" I say, "Well, today, let's do a lobster roll
and a BLT and a hot dog." "What are we missing? You crazy or what?" No. The idea there is
yes, you can always do a better hot dog. You can always find a better hot dog with a better
mustard, with a better bread, with a better way of grating it, with a better way, so that,
or like a lobster roll, like my friend Jean-Claude, with my oldest friend that I stay working
with me for de Gaulle.
And he come to Connecticut and he said, "Let's go have a lobster roll at The Shack on the
Boston north border." The Shack is there in summer, closed in winter. Well, the guy buy
the Philadelphia roll that we used to have at Howard Johnson, a flat roll sticking against
one another. He brown them nicely--butter on each side.
He has fresh lobster cooked. Cracked pepper, salt on top, butter. Put that, that's it.
Well, my friend, the professional chef, will remember. He say, "Let's go have a lobster
roll there." And you do that. Let's go have a roast chicken. And those guys do hot dog
or even hamburger incredible. That's what you remember.
So, for a young chef, often I say, "Work in depth rather than wanting to create and you
end up with a slice of Roquefort on top of a bowl of raspberry ice cream." Wow.
No one has ever thought of it before. Probably reason why no one has thought of it before.
So, and often unfortunately, it's too much, the question of if you want of the novelty,
the--. It's not necessarily good. I'm very comfortable with thousand and thousand of
dishes that I've had through my life. I don't need to create stuff. And often, what's new
for you is very different. Tomorrow, you fly into Dakar and you are in West Africa and
you going to have a ceebu jen.
You say, "Wow. I never had ceebu jen." Well, it's the broken rice that they cook there
with the fish and some hot sauce and you hold that in your hand. Well, yes. So, it can do
the rage for two weeks. I mean, from one chef to the other, they get berserk because it's
new. Fine. There, what they eat every day. This is their national dish, you know? If
you go around the world like that, that's basically the way it works.
>>male #10: So, is there any common mistakes that chefs will make that you'll notice or
>>Jacques Pepin: Oh, yes. Yeah. There is mistake often. And I say working too much with the,
doing too much with the ingredient. That's normal. I probably did that when I was in
my 20s, 30s. Also, you have a plate and add more and they put a bit of cilantro and they
put a bit of tarragon, which conflicts with it.
And you have that type of carrot and you have olive oil and you have a bit of sesame oil
and stuff. And geez. You know. So, you sit down. And that has happened to be because
being a chef, I go to some food writer conference, also because I write about food. And so, because
I'm a chef, they ask me where those thing.
And everything is sliced beautiful, five vegetable and so they ask people, "What is that? Is
it good?" So, I taste it. "Yeah, it's very good. What is it?" "No idea." People don't
have any idea. It's either a breast of chicken or a breast of turkey. It's white. It's standard.
It's clean. And that's what I would tell a chef.
I say, "I'll put something on your eyes. Sit down. I'll give you a plate. If you tell me,
'That's chicken, there is mushroom in it and maybe some wine. I think there's a bit of
white wine.' Then, you're probably far enough in the dish. The dish is pretty linear and
it's pretty straight-forward and you know what you're eating."
And that basically what you want, to recognize the food. And as you're older like me, after
adding to the plate, you start taking away, taking away, taking away so that you're left
with one tomato at the right temperature with the vestibule, too. That's it. And I throw
shallot on top, whatever. That's how it works, usually.
>>Jeff Freburg: Great. Anyone else? OK. Last question 'cause I'm--.
>>male #11: Do you think you're at your tier in the process of learning about how to cook?
Is there anything that stands out to you as something that you would've changed in which
you'd avoid a lot of hassle?
>>Jacques Pepin: Anything that stand out for me for what?
>>Jeff Freburg: So, during your career, is there anything that you could change along
your career?
>>Jacques Pepin: Could change? I don't know. It's a good question. The point is that I
never had a plan. I'm gonna do this and then do this and then, no. Things take over. I
worked in Paris and I probably work over a hundred restaurant in Paris because I work
like, seven years at the Plaza Athenee, too. But my day off, I used to work in a large
organization in Paris called La Associate de Cuisine in Paris, the Society of the Chef
of Paris.
And which we should really have in town like here or New York, where you can go in the
morning. You get a job for the day. People call to say, "I need associate today." Or,
"I need this, that, too." Great, great training for me because as you get there, no matter
you work in a restaurant, it takes you two day to get used to.
There, it doesn't test. After 15, 20 minutes, you have to be cooking. You're there for the
day. The chefs say, "Go to that department or that department." You go there. What's
on the menu today? You look. You say, "OK." Start gathering your ingredient. You start
working. Well, that's very, very good training.
And I would advise young chefs to do that, but basically, you work and you meet friend
and then you have enough work to do something else. I went at the Plaza Athenee in Paris,
at that time the pastry chef was an old man, about my age now. And he told me, "I work
in Chicago when I was a young man. You should go to America and so forth and that."
And he said, "Well, I have friend and they can call you to sponsor you if you want."
So, I had a sponsor in New York. Yeah, in New York, a French restaurant from Alsace.
He sponsors me. And at that time, the quota and the rule to come to another country, you
come to America have changed a great deal now.
But at that time, each country had their own quota. And in France, people really never
immigrated that much. So, two months I had a green card and a visa that I could come.
In two month. But in Italy next door, I think it's about close to a third of the population
immigrated from Italy in the 10, 20s, and 30s.
So, cousin coming, they had to wait like five years, six years. And now, they changed those
thing into something for all Europe now. So, it was very good for me to come. I came on
a student boat, actually. Student who were coming back from Europe. And I saw two aurora
borealis and I finish in Quebec. Quebec, I took the train to go to Montreal.
And Montreal, the train to New York. And I'm there in Grand Central with my suitcase. That
was it. No, those were very good experience. Even when I left from Lyon, I was 17 years
old and I went to Paris. I had work already in Lyon. Did my apprenticeship. I started
at 13. I told my mother, "No, I have a job in Paris. I have a friend."
I didn't have a job in Paris. I didn't have--. I never been to Paris. I arrived there with
my suitcase, too, there. So, those are good experience to form someone. Yeah.
>>Jeff Freburg: All right. Well, thank you very much. It was a real pleasure.
>>Jacques Pepin: Thank you.