Never in a million year I would have thought of meeting my culinary idol, the legendary French Chef Jacques Pépin at KQED T.V. in person and face-to-face and never thought I would have one of my idols in the kitchen business.
Cooking has been my Italian way of life, not as science, not a subject to study. Cooking to me is an essential skill to secure me a good health and a happy face. Never had considered it a sophisticated art I had to have in my résumé of life’s achievements. At least up to a certain point. I get up in the morning and think of what I am going to eat for dinner and plan accordingly. However, I had to learn cooking at one point if I wanted to eat food well-made as I was used at home with my parents. My grandmother and my family were great inspirations and silent teachers, they cooked the food and us kids ate it without fussing, or else we starved, but watching Jacques Pépin cooking on T.V., my cooking became an art and all of a sudden, even though I knew how to cook, I felt he took my knowledge of food to a higher level. He taught me the chef’s language, which I really needed, taught me how to use and present simple and less expensive food in an elegant way and of course he expanded my horizons into history of food and food of other countries. In the meantime 20 years have passed learning from the master on T.V. and reading all of his books. He was the biggest contributor in my decision to write cookbooks so many years later I had learned he existed.
I find so many similarities between my grandmother’s cooking and Jacques Pépin’s food. In Puglia, the southern Italian region, where I come from, Normans (French people of Normandy) invaded that part of Italy from 999 up to the year 1200, leaving behind a trail of their language and food culture. It is often said the if people from Puglia don’t speak French can easily travel to France with no problem, just speaking Puglia’s dialect will be sufficient to get them understood.
Jacques food is just the same as my Puglia cooking with the exception of butter and creamy sauce, which we do not use.
During the brief evening hours with Jacques Pépin at KQED’s reception for donors and supporters of Public T.V. was a delight to learn aspects of his life I did not know.
He is a television personage, but not only that. I learned he refused a position as a chef for the White House and went to work instead for Howard Johnson, an American Hotel chain.
In 1972, he achieved a master degree in French Literature from Columbia University. In 2010, during the christening of Oceania Marina, Pépin was named an honorary commodore of the Oceania Cruises fleet, for which he serves as Executive Culinary Director.
Pépin serves as Dean of Special Programs at the French Culinary Institute, in New York City. He is also an active contributor to the Gastronomy department at Boston University, where he teaches an online class on the cuisine and culture of France. Jacques Pépin co-starred in the 1999 PBS series Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home with Julia Child. The program was awarded a Daytime Emmy in 2001. The tribute video was created to honor Jacques Pépin and was shown at the 4th Annual New York City Wine & Food Festival Tribute Dinner on October 2011.
The first tribute of its kind ever. http://youtu.be/l6PN6sf0P8Y
There is so much more to Jacques that I can possibly mention. It is hard to describe in all facets a successful and a renaissance person like him. His latest T.V. series “Essential” http://youtu.be/0WQiFRe5Sfg is now showing on PBS.
Well, I was in seventh heaven a couple of nights ago at KQED. Finally, I met the man behind that T.V. screen with an open face I have followed for 20 years. I talked to him as he was an old-time friend, he signed his book Jacques Pépin’s Table I brought along with me, he is witty, very friendly and looks in person no different from as he looks on T.V. I asked him to tell us how it was to work with Julia Child and the episodes he recounted were so hilarious.
Most chefs are nervous and dictatorial people, Jacques Pépin cannot come in a sweeter and more mellow version. If he didn’t exist, we had to invent him. Ciao,
Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She operates in the USA and Europe. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn unattractive spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms.
She is the author of two regional Italian cookbooks on
Valentina’s third book RED-A Voyage Into Colors is in production and will be coming out soon.