KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Interview with Jacques Pepin Part One
Bay Area Bites: culinary rants & raves from bay area foodies and professionals
Previous Posts
Links Around the Bay
Fig Hunting in Napa
Cold Soup for a Hot Day
Popping the Cherry
Cook by the Book: The New California Cook
Farm Tour: Marin Sun Farms, Part II
Hatch's Fish & Produce, Wellfleet Masachusettes
Bastille Day et Tarte aux Abricots avec Noisettes ...
Tea'd Off: Modern Tea vs. Lovejoy's
Feeling Lucky?
BAB Guidelines

'Bay Area Bites' is part of KQED's Blog Authors Collaborative. Blog contributors and commentators are solely responsible for their content. If you're interested in writing or contributing to a blog on kqed.org, email us with your idea.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Interview with Jacques Pepin Part One

Bay Area Bites recently got a chance to sit down with Jacques Pepin, one of the most beloved "celebrity chefs". In Interview with Jacques Pepin Part One we talk about food trends, the celebrity chef phenomenon and cookbooks. Next week check back for Part Two to read about Pepin's favorite meal, favorite gadgets and the difference between food in America and France.

You've seen a lot of trends from nouvelle cuisine to low carb, is molecular gastronomy the next food revolution?
People like Ferran Adria at El Bulli in the North of Spain are breaking new ground. When you go there and eat that food you often don't even know what it is. It's a little bit like when I was in China eating Buddhist food. Everything is some type of bean but one dish tastes like duck, another tastes like fish. It's a cuisine of deception to a certain extent. If you gave Adria's food to a Spaniard in the street, he'd have no idea what it is. That being said, he has done stuff that no one has done. I think it is akin to haute couture. When you see the new collection of Gaultier you start laughing. Somehow it trickles down and goes somewhere. That type of cuisine will trickle down. If you look at what we've done with nouvelle cuisine, it was a big revolution but many of the things that were revolutionary at the time are common ground now. It does have to make sense, it's not a question of putting raspberry ice cream on a slice of Roquefort cheese just because no one has ever done it, there's a reason why no one has ever done it. For a young chef, the idea of doing something shocking can be irresistible but I'm much older now and I like something which tastes good whether it is new or not. I tend to take away from the plate much more than I add, which is a normal process I think.

Are we too obsessed with food in this country?
Depends where you live. If you are in Iraq or Biafra (Nigeria) or many other places in the world, all people want is some protein so they are not that concerned about over-carbohydrating themselves, they just want to grab something to eat. We fuss so much about a dish, we torture it so much to make it appealing, to excite your taste buds, when at the same time 2/3 of the world's population is dying of hunger. There's something wrong with that picture. Morally something is wrong. So yes, we can become too obsessed with food here.

If you compare the world of food now to the way it was, I mean there were over 2,000 cookbooks published last year and in the last 15 years, probably 20,000 books specifically about dieting and we are now 1/3 fatter than we were 20 years ago when it started. There's something wrong there. It used to be that you went to the restaurant before going to the theatre. Now the restaurant has become the theatre, people go there to be seen, to experience new trends, and to discover new chefs. It is really an obsession compared to the rest of the world where people usually eat at home and eat in a restaurant maybe once a month. Just look at what's in the supermarket. When I first came here 40 years ago there were two kinds of lettuce, iceberg and romaine. There were no leeks, no shallots, no oriental vegetables, and no fresh herbs. You had to go to a specialty store in New York just to get regular white mushrooms.

What do you think about the celebrity chef phenomenon?
It's terrific! I'm a beneficiary so I'm not going to can it but I don't take it too seriously. When I came here in 1960, I was offered a job at the White House to cook for John F. Kennedy and then I was offered a job at Howard Johnson and I went there instead. But it was a decision which made sense at the time. I had been the chef of the president in France (Charles de Gaulle) but I had never been on the radio or in a magazine. The chef was in the kitchen and never came into the dining room. When I was invited to the White House, I had no idea of the potential so it's not a decision which was so difficult to understand at the time. On the other hand, with Howard Johnson I had no idea of the food, no idea of the production, no idea of the chemistry of food, no idea of American eating habits. So I was learning something, and that's why I went.

I don't like to go out to dinner when people are shoving food in my mouth. Sometimes I just like to go out and have a taco and a beer somewhere. 35 years ago, chefs were really at the bottom of the social scale. No good mother would have wanted their child to be a cook, they wanted them to be a lawyer or an architect or a designer or whatever. Now we are geniuses.

Your latest book,"Fast Food My Way" seems to try to dispel the notion that great cooking has to require a lot of time and effort. Has your own style of cooking changed?
The myth is that this is the way Jacques Pepin cooks now. I've always cooked this way. In the span of a week, I could spend five hours in the kitchen doing puff pastry or doing stock and the day after I'm in a hurry and I do something out of the refrigerator. I could put one recipe into slow food, one recipe into normal, and one recipe into fast foo--throughout the year it's what I do. This is not something that is new or that I never cooked this way before. I'm not special, I'm sure you do the same thing, sometimes you have time and sometimes you don't. In the US we tend to always want to categorize things so much--slow food cookery, 8 hours, microwave oven, regular stove.

Do you look at cookbooks for inspiration?
Not for inspiration but I look at the Larousse Gastronomic or Joy of Cooking or an old anthology book like that to check a point. Inspiration comes from eating in a restaurant or you look in a magazine or you talk with friends and it triggers something. I came from the airport and I had a bite to eat at Postrio and he gave me a scallop that was wrapped in a very thin slice of bread and sauteed and that was a good idea. It reminded me of when I was working at the Russian Tea Room in New York and we used to do a breast of chicken that we dipped in eggs and we dipped it into a little cube of bread or brioche and sauteed it. I will probably do something like this, but maybe with fish. So you have an idea like this that you see and it transforms itself, you filter it through your own aesthetic.

Interview continues here.


Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

This interview is fantastique!

What I love, Amy, is that you asked brave questions and so Mr. Pepin's answers are in his voice. This is not a recycled interview we have read and heard before.

It's important to hear from the people with historical perspective. Especially in an industry that has sped up it's populous with large numbers of culinary school graduates.

Thank you for this insightful sit down.

7/26/2006 10:06 AM

Anonymous elle said...

Oh Amy, what an outstanding interview with wonderful questions. I too enjoyed Mr. Pepin's insightful answers with his years of experience and thoughtful insights.
The picture on your blog is a real keeper.

7/26/2006 1:25 PM

Blogger Catherine said...

Hi Amy,

This is a great interview!

I love Jacques Pepin - he's very down to earth, while being very precise. I can't wait for part 2.

7/26/2006 2:49 PM

Anonymous jeanine said...

Great interview. I had the opportunity myself to interview Jacques when I reported for the New Haven Register a number of years ago. He was as charming and knowledgeable then as he is now - a writer's dream.

Also had the opportunity to meet his wife and mother when my French mother and I had dinner at Gloria's in Madison - a restaurant his wife created. Lasted a short time but was delightful and like being in my family's home in Paris.

Looking forward to reading part two. Enjoy.

7/28/2006 2:15 PM


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Locate CP Restaurants:
Check, Please! Google Map
KQED Food Sites
Check, Please! Bay Area
Jacques Pépin Celebrates!
Jacques Pépin:
Fast Food My Way
Jacques Pépin:
The Apprentice
Jacques Pépin:
The Complete Pépin
KQED Wine Club
KQED.org Cooking
Weir Cooking in the City
Tasty Food Sites
Chowhound SF
Eat Local Challenge
Edible San Francisco
Food Network
Food Talk
Group Recipes
Hungry Magazine
Leite's Culinaria
Mighty Foods
NPR: Food
Om Organics
Serious Eats
SFGate: Food
SFGate: Wine
SF Station: Restaurants
Slow Food SF
Top Chef
Wikimedia Commons: Food & Drink
Yahoo! Food
Yelp: Reviews
Tangy Food Blogs
101 Cookbooks
A Full Belly
Accidental Hedonist
An Obsession with Food
Anna's Cool Finds
Becks & Posh
Between Meals
Bunny Foot
Butter Pig
Cellar Rat
Chez Pim
Chocolate & Zucchini
Confessions of a
Restaurant Whore
Cooking For Engineers
Cooking with Amy
Cucina Testa Rossa
Culinary Muse
Denise's Kitchen
Eater SF
Feed & Supply
Food Blog S'cool
Food Musings
Food Porn Watch
I'm Mad and I Eat
In Praise of Sardines
Knife's Edge
Life Begins at 30
Love and Cooking
Mental Masala
Moveable Feast
Organic Day
Passionate Eater
San Francisco Gourmet
SF City Eats
Simply Recipes
The Amateur Gourmet
The Ethicurean
The Food Section
The Grub Report
The Petite Pig
The Wine Makers Wife
Vin Divine
Wandering Spoon
Well Fed Network
Word Eater
World on a Plate
Yummy Chow
Search BAB

Eye Candy: Food Photos
BAB on flickr.com
Join Flickr for free and share your photos with the Bay Area Bites and Beyond group pool.
Food Books
The Moosewood Cookbook
by Mollie Katzen
Baking: From My Home to Yours
by Dorie Greenspan
Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Desserts and Pastries
by Alain Ducasse, Frederic Robertmison
The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining
by Cheryl Alters Jamison, Bill Jamison
Tasty: Get Great Food on the Table Every Day
by Roy Finamore
Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way
by Lorna Sass
The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa
by Marcus Samuelsson
Michael Mina: The Cookbook
by Michael Mina, Photographer: Karl Petzktle
What to Eat
by Marion Nestle
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan
Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate
by John Scharffenberger, Robert Steinberg
Romancing the Vine: Life, Love, and Transformation in the Vineyards of Barolo
by Alan Tardi
What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea -- Even Water -- Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers
by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Michael Sofronski
The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners
by Matt Lee, Ted Lee
Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own
by Andrew Whitley
Coloring the Seasons: A Cook's Guide
by Allegra McEvedy
All-new Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
by Anne C. Cain
Modern Garde Manger
by Robert B. Garlough
The Spice and Herb Bible
by Ian Hemphill, Kate Hemphill
The Improvisational Cook
by Sally Schneider
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
by Ann Cooper, Lisa M. Holmes
Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia
by James Oseland
My Life in France
by Julia Child, Alex Prud'Homme
A Passion for Ice Cream: 95 Recipes for Fabulous Desserts
by Emily Luchett, Sheri Giblin (photographer)
Au Pied De Cochon -- The Album
by Martin Picard
Memories of Philippine Kitchens
by Amy Besa, Romy Dorotan
Simple Chinese Cooking
by Kylie Kwong
An Invitation to Indian Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Hungry Planet
by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio
Sunday Suppers at Lucques : Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table
by Suzanne Goin, Teri Gelber
Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties
by Peggy Knickerbocker, Christopher Hirsheimer (Photographer)
The Cook's Book
by Jill Norman
Molto Italiano : 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home
by Mario Batali
Nobu Now
by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa
Cheese : A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best
by Max Mccalman, David Gibbons
Bones : Recipes, History, and Lore
by Jennifer McLagan
Whiskey : The Definitive World Guide
by Michael Jackson
The New American Cooking
by Joan Nathan
by Lisa Yockelson
Easy Entertaining: Everything You Need to Know About Having Parties at Home
by Darina Allen
Cooking at De Gustibus: Celebrating 25 Years of Culinary Innovation
by Arlene Feltman Sailhac
Dough: Simple Contemporary Breads
by Richard Bertinet
Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor
by Michael Recchiuti, Fran Gage, Maren Caruso
The Food Substitutions Bible: More Than 5,000 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment And Techniques
by David Joachim
Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook
by Susan Spungen
Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health
by Nina Simonds
Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid
Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light
by Mort Rosenblum
Vegetable Love: A Book for Cooks
by Barbara Kafka, Christopher Styler
A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present
by Thomas Pinney
Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years Of Food And Art
by Tom Gilliland, Miguel Ravago, Virginia B. Wood
Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South
by Marcie Cohen Ferris
Washoku: Recipes From The Japanese Home Kitchen
by Elizabeth Andoh, Leigh Beisch
Weir Cooking in the City: More than 125 Recipes and Inspiring Ideas for Relaxed Entertaining
by Joanne Weir
Rick Stein's Complete Seafood
by Rick Stein
The Great Scandinavian Baking Book
by Beatrice A. Ojakangas
Serena, Food & Stories: Feeding Friends Every Hour of the Day
by Serena Bass
John Ash: Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher
by John Ash
The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: Eating Well for Better Health
by Donald Hensrud, M.D., Jennifer Nelson, R.D. & Mayo Clinic Staff
Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions
by Fernando and Marlene Divina
The Provence Cookbook
by Patricia Wells
Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World
by Gil Marks
Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World
by Gina Mallet
by Thomas Keller
A Blessing of Bread: The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking Around the World
by Maggie Glezer
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
by Molly Stevens
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
by Harold McGee
Entertaining: Inspired Menus For Cooking with Family and Friends
by George Dolese
The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore
by Grace Young, Alan Richardson
Cooking New American: How to Cook the Food You Love to Eat
by Fine Cooking Magazine
The Japanese Kitchen: A Book of Essential Ingredients with 200 Authentic Recipes
by Kimiko Barber
Arthur Schwartz's New York City Food: An Opinionated History and More Than 100 Legendary Recipes
by Arthur Schwartz
Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher
by Joan Reardon
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes
by Jeffrey Hamelman
Everyday Dining with Wine
by Andrea Immer
Copyright © 2005-2008 KQED. All rights reserved.