"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Taster's Cherce

Some words (and recipes) from the master, Jacques Pepin, in a long interview at Powells.com:

We had to go to school at that time until age fourteen to finish primary school. Certificate étude. I was doing fine in school. I’m saying that only in that I didn’t have to leave school. My brother didn’t, and he became an engineer. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go into the kitchen and cook.

I liked the hustle, bustle, excitement, the sweating and yelling of the kitchen. I liked it very much; my brother didn’t. The other choice I would have had maybe was to become a cabinetmaker because my father was a cabinetmaker, doing fancy furniture, which we call ébéniste in France. And I still like to work wood. I was in Claudine’s house yesterday, looking at a table I did a few years ago. Pretty rough, but it’s still there.

I like to work with my hands, and I feel that anyone involved in food has to become a craftsman first. A technician. That doesn’t mean you have talent. It just means that you are able to move very fast and do things properly in an orderly manner, in a miserly manner. Certainly if you’re a jeweler or a carpenter or a surgeon, you first and foremost have to become a technician, to have the manual dexterity to dominate that trade. If you happen to have talent, now you have the know-how in your hand; you have the means to express this and bring it to a higher level.

If you look at the reverse: I know young chefs who have a lot of talent, but they’re technically very bad. The food doesn’t come out the way it should. I can do an analogy with my painting. I’ve been painting for thirty years. I do illustrations in my books. But I have never spent, like a professional painter, five hours every day in a studio, working, working, working, so I don’t really have much technique. I start a painting and sometimes it comes out halfway good, and I’m the first one astonished. Often I get disgusted because whatever I have in my head, my hand is not able to express it the way I want. I’m not good enough technically.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Taster's Cherce

Share: Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email %PRINT_TEXT


1 bp1   ~  Mar 31, 2010 2:14 pm

He seems like a genuine guy - humble and immensely talented. I bet he'd be great at whatever he decided to do - cabinetmaking, cooking, whatever it happened to be. Just seems to be one of those guys who's just naturally good at things. Easy to understand why he's so admired among his peers.

2 wsporter   ~  Mar 31, 2010 6:09 pm

Just finished reading his "The Apprentice, My life in the Kitchen." What a guy, what a life; I could listen to him talking about opening a can of soup. What a guy. La Technique, La Method, Complete Techniques, I feel like some Braised Beef in Aspec!

3 knuckles   ~  Mar 31, 2010 9:33 pm

Pepin keeps popping up in a book I'm reading now- "The United States of Arugula"

Dude worked for Hojo's!!!

4 wsporter   ~  Mar 31, 2010 9:59 pm

Dude turned Mr. Johnson's nasty little restaurants into places that were reasonably priced decent places to eatin the 60's; he really started something. He's a national treasure in two countries. If you care about food and the cooking of it you have to know about him.

5 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 31, 2010 10:08 pm

I love how unpretentious he is, though he doesn't suffer fools...You can't be a hack. But when he started being a cook was such a blue collar vocation, nothing like the celebrity chef culture these days. He's one guy I'd love to have a meal with. I have five or six of his cookbooks and they are fun because you can see him adding new things over the years, letting his curiosity lead him, while remaining rooted in solid, bistro style technique that he was raised on.

He's a hero, for sure.

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver