Jacques Pépin Is a Chef AND a Cook
Catching up with a creative and thoughtful friend
“You don't have to torture yourself to be different from the rest — just cook according to your own guts and go and see what you can do.”
Kate and I have with us on today’s episode of Food with Mark Bittman the first food guy I ever met, and that is Jacques Pépin, who is almost exactly 15 years my senior. We met when I was 34 and he was 49, or thereabouts, and man was I overwhelmed. It was really something.
Jacques and I had a mutual friend who said, “Why don’t you come to dinner with my friend Jacques, and this guy Pierre,” and it turned out to be Jacques and Pierre Franey, and a couple of other famous New York French chef types. I just kept quiet and listened; it was really interesting.
Over the years, Jacques and I both lived in Connecticut, and over the years we became closer. I think that Jacques is one of the wisest people in the food industry, ever, and certainly of his generation — really brilliant guy, and very, very thoughtful. A terrific home cook — although he was a trained and much revered restaurant chef — he is among the best home cooks you’ll ever encounter. Highly, highly skilled but very inventive, very creative, into quick cooking, into real cooking — just one of the originators. Jacques is the guy who said to me, “A recipe is like a river; you never put your foot in it the same way twice.”
Please listen, subscribe, and review. Below you’ll find the recipe featured in today’s episode from Jacques's new book, Art of the Chicken, a book filled with life stories, recipes, and plenty of Jacques’ beautiful paintings.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
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I christened Maman’s most famous (and perhaps my family’s favorite) egg dish Eggs Jeannette after her. Maman split hard-cooked eggs in half lengthwise and removed the yolks. She made a persillade by chopping garlic and parsley together and mashed it into the yolks, along with salt and pepper. She added a few tablespoons of milk to blend the ingredients, then she spooned them back into the hollowed-out whites, setting aside a few tablespoons worth for the sauce.
I suppose she could have stopped there and had very good stuffed eggs. But Maman elevated the dish to something truly special by frying the filled eggs stuffed-side down in a skillet with a dash of butter or oil. They browned beautifully after a couple of minutes. To complete the dish, she topped the eggs with a sauce made from the yolk mixture she reserved along with Dijon-style mustard, peanut oil, and a dribble of vinegar.
— Recipe from Art of the Chicken
I met him once at a talk he gave at UMass Dartmouth and got his autograph in one of his cookbooks. I really enjoy his programs on PBS and have learned a lot from watching them for many years.
Love Jacques Pepin! The chef vs cook comparison reminds me of language I saw in a recipe intro a while back when I was looking to make chocolate gravy, a new experience for me. The recipe writer wrote lovingly of Appalachian cooking and the role of gravy in that cuisine. And then said: “A chef can make sauce from the finest ingredients on earth. Meh. A cook can make gravy out of nothing”. So, as much as I admire Jacques Pepin as a chef, I adore him as a cook!