Jacques Pepin is one of America's most loved French chefs, and has worn many different hats in the culinary world, including chef, television personality, and cookbook author. Pepin, along with Julia Child, is credited with helping teach Americans how to cook proper French food.
The Early Years
Pepin was born in Bourg-en-Bresse near the city of Lyon, France on December 18, 1935. He began cooking in his parents restaurant, Le Pelican, at the young age of 12. Once his parents realized that their young son was more interested in the kitchen than schoolbooks, they allowed him to begin a formal apprenticeship at the Grand Hotel de L'Europe in Bourg-en-Bresse.
After several years working his way up the culinary ladder, he eventually went to Paris where he trained under Chef Lucien Diat at the Plaza Athénée. Ultimately Pepin landed the coveted position as personal chef to three different French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle, and two other French premiers.
Jacques Pepin in America
Pepin immigrated to the United States in 1959 and was offered the personal chef position at the White House for President John F. Kennedy, which he turned down. Instead he took a position as the Director of Research and New Development for the Howard Johnson hotel chain. During his 10 years at HoJo, Pepin learned about American food tastes and helped create dishes for the hotel chain that blended his classic French techniques with American-friendly flavors.
While working at Howard Johnson Jacques Pepin also studied at Columbia University and earned a Bachelor's in General Studies followed by a Master's of Arts degree in 18th-century French literature.
Author and Television Star
After graduating from Columbia in 1972 Pepin decided to devote his time to authoring cookbooks, and wrote two groundbreaking books on French culinary techniques, "La Téchnique" in 1976, and "La Méthode" in 1979. Following these two titles, Pepin published more than 20 cookbooks, many of which blended classic French culinary techniques and American flavors. In addition to these cookbooks, he also hosted more than 300 cooking shows, including:
- The Complete Pepin, which aired on PBS in 1997
- Jacques Pepin: Fast Food My Way, which ran in 2004 on PBS
- Jacques Pepin: More Fast Food My Way
- Today's Gourmet with Jacques Pepin, which received a James Beard Award for Outstanding Culinary Video in 1994
- Jacques Pepin's Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine, which featured his daughter and won a James Beard award for the Best National Cooking Segment in 1997
- Jacques Pepin's Kitchen: Encore with Claudine, which was named Best National TV Cooking Show at the James Beard Awards in May 1999
Jacques and Julia
Jacques Pepin and Julia Child began a lifelong friendship beginning when Pepin reviewed Child's manuscript for her landmark cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." After several years working together, Jacques and Julia shared the spotlight with a show titled "Julia and Jacques Cooking At Home." Their show won The James Beard Foundation's Award for Best National Cooking Show in 2001, and the duo also received a 2001 Daytime Emmy Award from The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The pair also published a cookbook by the same name.
Today Chef Jacques Pepin holds several coveted positions, including Dean of Special Programs at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. He is also an important contributor to the Gastronomy department at Boston University where he teaches an online class in the cuisine and culture of France.
As a former columnist for The New York Times, Pepin now writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine magazine. He also participates each year in the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado and at other various culinary festivals worldwide. He is a founder of The American Institute of Wine and Food, an emeritus member of the International Association of Cooking Professionals, and is a member of the board of trustees of the James Beard Foundation.
Awards and Accolades
In addition to his various James Beard awards and the Daytime Emmy he won with Julia Child, Pepin has received two of the French government's highest honors--the Chevalier de L'Orre des Arts et des Lettres, and a Chevalier de L'Ordre du Mérite Agricole. In October of 2004 he received France's ultimate recognition, the Légion d'honneur.
To learn more about Jacques Pepin check out his website at JacquesPepin.net