Interview with Legendary Chef, Jacques Pépin

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JacquesPepinEat My Globe by Simon Majumdar
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Jacques Pépin Interview Notes

In this episode of Eat My Globe, our host, Simon Majumdar, shares an in-depth conversation with one of the truly great figures in culinary history, Chef Jacques Pépin. A chef whose career has taken him from being a young man in France, being mentored by an acolyte of Escoffier to his current position as the grandfather to American cuisine. It is a remarkable life story, and provides one of our favorite interviews so far on the podcast.

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TRANSCRIPT

Eat My Globe

Interview with Legendary Chef, 

Jacques Pépin


INTRO MUSIC


SIMON MAJUMDAR (“SM”):

Hey everybody. And welcome to Eat My Globe. I'm Simon Majumdar. And on today's very special episode, in fact, very special episode, uh, I'm gonna present to you one of the great culinary legends of the world. Someone who I was, uh, someone who I was, uh, someone who I met about four years ago when I was actually on a show with Ming Tsai called, “East Meets West.”


And after the show, I went to Ming's restaurant, “Blue Dragon,” which is a wonderful, wonderful restaurant in Boston. If you ever get chance, you should definitely go there. And Ming was actually there with his chef of that day. This is the chef who I've got with us today. And I was so excited because this is a chef who has been one of my great, uh, heroes from all of my life, from my time back in England, uh, to my time being in the United States. Um, there's not many things I could say about this chef. So, I'm just gonna say, uh, Jacques Pépin, thank you very much for coming on Eat My Globe.


Jacques Pépin (“JP”) :

Thank you.


SM:

Uh, it is, it is such a joy to have you here. And, and for me, Eat My Globe is a food history podcast. So, we're looking at people, uh, not just people, but we're looking at, um, ingredients. We're looking at, uh, events. We're looking at all kinds of things that have really kind of touched onto food across the years. And for me to have you, who has obviously seen food across the years, you've seen it from, as we will talk about, the great, uh, I would say, one of the greatest periods of food in Paris in the fifties all the way through to the United States, is very important. Uh, chef, thank you so much for coming on.


JP:

Well, thank you. Thank you for having me.


SM:

[Laughter]


Um, but before we go on to talk about. . . you know, I'm sure everyone will want to know about your time here in the US, because obviously you've become so popular here in the US. I think a lot of people don't necessarily know your history back in France and then obviously in Paris. But you were, I believe, born in, in one of my favorite, or very close to one of favorite, parts of France. Can you tell me a little bit about your, your kind of your history beforehand because you, I believe, you came into the food world almost immediately, didn’t you?


JP:

Pretty close to, yes, yes. I was born in Bourg-en-Bresse, which is a town very well known for the chicken of Bresse – B R E S S E. And it's, uh, situated between Lyon in France and Geneva, really. And, uh, that's where I was born and that's where everyone in my family was born. But, uh, eventually my mother moved to open a restaurant in different part of the area and in Lyon, too. And, uh, and actually, in my family, I can count 12 restaurants in France when I was a kid. Twelve of them run by women. I was the first male to go into that business. So, it was my aunt, my cousin, mother. . . . . They were kind of a formidable, uh. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

. . . women cook, you know, like a pretty well in the tradition of Lyon. The Lyon, the mother of Lyon were very well known for great cooking.


SM:

Of course. I know the, the Mere de Lyon was something very, uh, popular. And I know when I've been down, I've spent many times in Lyon and, uh, uh, the food is always just incredible down there.


Um, so actually, just because you mentioned it, if people don't know, uh, Poulet de Bresse. . .


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

. . . which to me is the greatest chicken anywhere in the world. And when I was in England, I could buy it more regularly. You can't find it too much here in the United States. Why is that chicken – I, I'm going off in a direction just because it's one of my favorite things to cook, and I've had it at. . .


JP:

Right.


SM:

. . . Paul Bocuse and I've had – why, why is that chicken considered so remarkable? Because it is the best.


JP:

Well, it is a beautiful white, fluffy chicken with, uh, a red comb and blue feet. So it had the color of the French flag, bleue blanche.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

So, but, uh, in, in Bourg-en-Bresse in the area it's raised of course, uh, a free range in the wood and they have those little house, uh, which, uh, you know, which house the chicken during the night. And then they, they graze around and every four, five days they move that house – it’s on the wheel – to, to, to another area. Uh, and usually the chicken is just fed the regular. . . . I mean, usually the cow go first and, uh, eventually the chicken after the cow to get, uh, when the cow left over and so forth and eventually the sheep. But this is the process, uh, which, uh, of course when I was a kid, it was normal. The chicken of Bresse are pretty expensive, but they are, uh, quite juicy. And of course, when I was in apprenticeship in Bourg-en-Bresse, we did it at about five or six, seven different ways because everyone who came there have chicken in one way or the other. So. . .


SM:

It, it is one of those great. . . . It's just because you mentioned it. And the, um, when I was in Lyon, we were at, uh, Bocuse Restaurant and had the Poulet. . .


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

. . . Demi Deuille. One of the, one of the great dishes.


I mean, tell me about though, the restaurants that you. . . I mean, you came into the restaurants, you were in there almost from the get go. And were they, was it classic Lyonnaise food that you were serving, or maybe you could tell people what that classic Lyonnaise is. That kind of bouchon, the, the food that you're serving there.


JP:

Right. Yeah. That's what my mother did. You know, I mean, she had a little restaurant next to Lyon and eventually in Lyon, and that was. . . I remember when I came to the US. . . A restaurant, when I left home, I was 13 years old to go in apprenticeship. I went back to Bourg-en-Bresse for my apprenticeship. And, uh, at that time, uh, it was, uh, just after the war. So the, the, the, the produce were pretty, uh, scarce. I mean, I went into apprenticeship in 1949.


SM:

Um-hm.


JP:

But when I left home at age 13, home was a restaurant. So, my mother was doing the classic, uh, you know, onion soup, the pike quenelle, I mean. . .


SM:

Oh.


JP:

. . . the chicken and cream sauce. All of that type of stuff, which is classic of the area of Lyon, as well as my, uh, my aunt and cousin were doing the same thing too. Yes.


SM:

I'm actually seeing it. Now, interestingly, coming back into the US, I'm actually seeing in restaurants that in, in LA, here, where I am, and in New York, uh, at Le Coucou or various places that people are coming back to that pike quenelle in the crevettes sauce and all of that. So, if people get chance to go to those restaurants, they'll get to taste real, kind of the classic restaurants up there.


JP:

Of course, plus ça change plus ça la même chose, you know.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

The more you change, the more you understand. So eventually things come back.


SM:

I think people coming back to that technique driven.

Uh, but before you went to, uh, to Paris, I, I know you were working in the restaurant, but did you have any other, uh, any other thoughts of what you might do, or is it always assumed that you were coming through a chef's res. . ., a restaurant you were always going to be going into that tradition?


JP:

Well, you know, uh, I am 86 years old. So I was in the kitchen. . . I've been in the kitchen 75 years.


SM:

Wow.


JP:

But the point is, the point is that, uh, at that time we didn't have the telephone at my house. Of course, there was no television. Uh, we didn’t even have a radio. We didn’t have the telephone. Life was much simpler, in a sense, than now. So, you know, my mother, at a little restaurant, she was the cook, my father was a cabinet maker. So, I had blinders on my eyes, you know, yeah. Was either be a cabinet maker or a cook. I mean, it was pretty easy choice. But that’s the way it was at the time. So, uh, probably much simpler than it is than it is for kids now to choose.


SM:

Yeah, I. . .


JP:

So, yes, I, I, I choose the, uh, that business. I, I like the excitement, you know, the, in the kitchen and so forth. And I was already working when I was 6, 7, 8, 9 years old in the restaurant with my mother and my two brothers either cleaning the bottle in the cellar or peeling potato or doing one thing or another. I don't think I ever came back from school, tell my mother, I am bored.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

Say you, what?


[Laughter]


I didn't think this at the time. We tried to escape, you know, uh, never, never, I mean, no one ever asked you whether you did your own work or not. That was part of it. You had to do it, but if they can grab you and, and yeah, there was always work to do in a kitchen or in a restaurant.


SM:

And particularly, uh, as I know that you then went on to, to go to, as I mentioned at the introduction, one of the most, uh, magical times, I think, for food in, in, in Paris. And you're talking about the early fifties, really.


JP:

Yes.


SM:

And, and I, I was really interested because I think food has changed. A lot of the people who listen to this, uh, show are chefs, uh, because we write about food ingredients of food history. I've done episodes on Escoffier. I've done episodes on, you know, the Titanic, all kinds of things. Um, you came through a very different style of food training as a, really, as an apprentice. Working with. . .


JP:

Yes.


SM:

. . . great chefs and that doesn't seem to happen anymore. And I just wondered while we're talking about that, what, whether you have this feeling now, now everyone goes to culinary school, or they go to CIA, you know, CIA, or they go to, uh, Johnson Wales. All of which are fantastic and I've visited them and spent time there. But do you feel there's a. . . one of them is better than the other in terms of training for, for example. . .


JP:

No.


SM:

. . . for what you did.


JP:

I mean, if you have the chance of being able to be taken by a chef who want to teach you, you will learn just as much as in a culinary school and it's going to cost you much less, that’s for sure. So, you know, yes, this is a different way of training. But you have to realize, my mother, at a little restaurant, and I remember even when I came to the US, the price of the meal there was Five Franc, which was $1. And that include a choice of a, a first course, like an artichoke. . .


SM:

Uh-huh.


JP:

. . . or a salad, then a main course, then, uh, a vegetable with that, then a dessert and a carafe of wine. Tax and tip included. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

. . . which was $1. So, you know, she had to go to the market really to buy proper. I mean, and at that time she had the refrigeration, even in the, in the restaurant. She had an ice box that she bought a block of ice to put her fish and meat for the day. But she had to finish it by the end of the day to start again the day after.


So, you know, it was another world and, at that point, she would serve fish like, uh, mackerel or whiting, or, you know, fish, which were inexpensive like this. But it was still served on tray, on any customer at that price, it was a platter, uh, with the fish on top of it too. Nothing was ever served on plate. I had never seen anything served on plate until nouvelle cuisine in the mid-17th and the. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

. . . world was changing, you know. So yes, it was a different type of, uh, of service. And when I moved on to Paris, it was the same thing, you know. The same was ever served on the plate. It was always, you know, on platters and so forth.


SM:

I was going to ask you then about going to Paris at that time. Uh, did you know Paris or was going to Paris really intimidating at that period?


JP:

Well, it was pretty intimidating. I mean, I knew that I had to go to Paris to further my, uh. . . . And I was in apprenticeship at 13. By then I was 17 and I told my mother, I had a job there and, uh, I had a, a place to stay, which I didn’t.


SM:

[Laughter]


JM:

And I took my suitcase and I arrived in Paris with my suitcase.. Uh, that was it. So, uh, yes, Paris at that time was very exciting. Certainly. There is an organization called Le Société des Cuisiniers de Paris – the Society of the Chefs of Paris – and which I became a member. So, you, you would come there in the morning, you wait in a, in a waiting room and they call your name to give you a job for the day or two days, three days too. So, I work almost seven years at the Plaza Athénée, no, eight years.


But, uh, I work probably in close to a hundred restaurants in Paris. Working either by day for this and that, uh, going to Le Société, you know. So that was a very good training too, because when you work there for two days in a restaurant where when you get in, the chef give you the menu and say, okay, you're in that place. Start. You know, it's not like you have to get used to the house for two days. You're there only for two days. So, you have to start working very fast. And it's a very good training. Yes.


SM:

And you get told almost, I guess, you’re, yeah you're not there for any time that you're able to build up much mentorship. You're just having to be able to do your job and then leave to the next restaurant.


JP:

Oh, yes. At, at that time, the idea was to conform, not to create creation. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

At the Plaza Athénée, we did the, the lobster soufflé, for example, was a famous dish where we were 48 cooks in the kitchen. Forty eight cooks could have done it. You would never have known which had done it. So, the idea was to conform. Not to create a dish and tell the world, and make sure you tell them that I did it. I signed that dish. I made it. You know, like, uh, the creation or now that it's done it totally different than at the time. So, it was probably easier for the cook in a sense to lift up the pressure of creating. I mean, not the product. We cooked. We slide the tomato one way, in one direction. And I remember one time I, the guy who came turned it. . .  turned it the other way. I couldn't believe it. I said, well, why, why did you do that? I mean, at that one. . .


[Laughter]


. . . you know, you really, conformed to, uh, to the way it was there and you go there and learn and, uh, the dish exactly the way it was. And then you move to another one. You learn the dish and you absorb all of that material. And eventually, eventually, if you become the chef somewhere, then you can, uh, give it back by making a few change. But, usually, you didn't.


SM:

I did want to ask about the Plaza Athénée, just because there's one dish that I've tried to make a lot, probably nowhere near as successful. Um, but you worked with Louis Diat, I believe at. . .


JM:

Yeah. Louis Diat, right. No, no. Lu. . . Lucien Diat.


SM:

Lucien Diat.


JP:

Lu. . . Yeah. Louis. . . Louis Diat was the chef in New York. That was his brother.


SM:

Ah.


JP:

He created, uh. . . . We did one of the, the best, uh. . . . At the Ritz Carlton, I believe, in the ‘30 or ‘40s, one of the first great French chefs. That was his brother, Louis Diat.


SM:

Ah.


JP:

And he did that cuisine. The cuisine that Louis Diat did, that big book in the ‘40 or fifties. No, at the Plaza in Paris was Lucien, yeah.


SM:

Lucien Diat.


JP:

Right.


SM:

And there was a dish there that I, I, I try and make. And I think then that hopefully it's Lucien, uh, the, uh, the crème vichyssoise glacée.


JP:

Right.


SM:

Like classic, classic. And it's still something that, again, I see coming on there. Did you ever get to. . . I just want to know, ‘cause that's one of those classic dishes that I love more than. . . kind of any other when I see it. And I always order it if see it. And I just wonder if you remember that dish particularly. ‘Cause I think it was one of their. . . . And he was an Escoffier alumni, wasn't he? I think he'd worked with Escoffier in his junior or he'd certainly worked, uh, in his kitchens.


JP:

Yes. That was Louis Diat. That was the brother.


SM:

Ah.


JP:

And they, they live from Montmarault near Vichy. And uh, his mother used to do leek and potato soup. Uh, but then once she had leftover, she always served it cold with chives on top and cream in it. So, they, they decided to do that soup. That Louis Diat put in his book, the vichyssoise soup. And then, uh, because he did it, Lucien Diat, in Paris, served that. He was probably one of the only person in France serving vichyssoise at the time because it was created by his brother in New York. And that's where it was. . . it became come. . . it became known.


SM:

It's, it's I love what I hear the history of these dishes that, that came back from New York into. . .


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

. . . a Parisian restaurant. I don't know that there are many dishes that maybe did that journey. But uh. . .


JP:

Well, yeah, the Egg Benedict did the same thing too.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

The Egg Benedict, the Egg Benedict did the same thing too. You know, it was created in New York, uh, and uh, and launched by a, actually, uh, French chef, uh, French assistant chef, and uh, uh, at the Delmonico in New York and it came back to Paris in the form of, uh, we have Egg Benedict now.


In fact it. . . in fact it's funny because one, I was in the Navy, you know, they took me, uh, I had to took an entrance exam to get into the kitchen. Well, that's ridiculous.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

And the chef, the chef there come and tell me, okay, do an Egg Benedict. So, I say, I have done it a hundred times. So, you know, a poached egg, usually a piece of brioche. You put a slice of ham, the poached egg on top, covered with hollandaise sauce and slice of truffle, which I did. And he starts yelling at me. Telling me I was an . . . . I didn't know to cook. That has nothing to do. . . That the Egg Benedict has to have a purée of cut fish underneath. I have never, never heard that anywhere. But then I looked in Escoffier, and Escoffier did it with the purée of cut fish underneath. So, he was right and I was wrong, but I've never seen it done this way.


SM:

Wow. I, I love, again, when you get that history of a dish like that from Eggs Benedict. . .


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

. . . from Escoffier.


And you mentioned there the Navy and I was going to ask you about that because you seem like a person, even now, when I met you, you know, three or four years ago, just your constant enthusiasm. And adventurism. You, you went into the Navy. I was a, I, I was that. . . Were you conscripted into the Navy or was that, uh, part of the, uh, or just something that you wanted to do at that point?


JP:

No, no, no. I mean, you know, it was the Algerian War, during the Algerian War. So we were, we were drafted in the, in the Navy and, uh, I was drafted. I was in the Navy. And my brother 16 months older had already been drafted. Uh, he was an engineer, so he was a, I think a Sergeant or whatever. And he was in Algeria fighting. So, at that time, the, the government did not send two draftees at the same time. Um, uh, so that the reason why I went back to and worked in Paris and all that during my time, because, uh, my brother was in Algeria.


SM:

Oh. So, they wouldn't send. . . if you were in two fam. .  if you were in the same family, they wouldn't send the. . .


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

. . . two of you together. And so you. . .


JP:

Only if. . . only for the draftee. . .


SM:

Only, ah.


JP:

Not, not the one who signed on. That's different. But uh, if you are, you know, drafted. They did that because there was a story at some point where they were like three or four brothers killed from the same family. . .


SM:

Oh.


JP:

. . . at the same time. So, they did the, the. . .


SM:

So, they tried not to send you together. So instead you went into, into Paris.


And then. . . . So this is what I want, uh, when I've read obviously about you, uh, you, you ended up going from there, from the Navy, to the next thing was having, I believe, it was Madame Charles de Gaulle who described you as her Petit Jacques.


JP:

Right, right.


SM:

Is that. . . is that. . . . And I wonder how you get from being in the Navy and being a cook in the Navy and being shouted at for not doing Eggs Benedict the right way, to suddenly being in the kitchens of some of the great, one of the great people in, in, you know, French history.


JM:

But because I was. . . uh, I did my bootcamp in the Southwest of France and then as I was sent back to Paris. . . but they sent me back to Paris at Admiralty for, uh, the big brass to cook, uh, in Paris. And at that point here, I had a friend who had worked for the, uh, the, uh, one of the Minister of France, uh, and, uh, Minister of Finance. I mean the, the Treasurer, Minister. And, uh, he was doing. . . . Again, he was in the, in the Navy, like me, and he was from Lyon. And he told me, you know, I never worked in Paris and I don't know those classic. . . . Could you come and give me a hand there? So, I start going there, giving him a hand. And that man was Félix Gaillard. Under the Fourth Republic in France, the government, the government was changing at a fairly rapid pace. So, uh, he left. He finished his time and I ended up being there, cooking for Félix Gaillard. And all of a sudden the government changed and he became the Prime Minister, the head of France. At that time, under the Fourth Republic, the President of the Republic didn't have any power. Like, uh, you know, the Queen of England.


[Laughter]


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

He was, was the, the Prime Minister at [inaudible] was the power. So, I was there with, uh, with Félix Gaillard. I think his government lasted six months and where seven months. And then Pflimli was the mayor of, uh, Strasbourg at the time, came at the Prime Minister. And it lasted like a month. And on the 12th of May ‘58, de Gaulle came to power. At the time there was all kinds of problems in Algeria though. So, and that's when I started working with de Gaulle.


SM:

And, and you did, uh, as far as I, again, reading your, your history and reading your story, you, you cooked for some extraordinary people. I'm half Indian. You cooked for Nehru. You cooked for. . .


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

. . . Tito. You cooked. . . . I mean, are you able to share any of the other people who you cooked for? Because it, it. . .  just incredible list of people.


JP:

Well, Eisenhower, uh, I don't know.


[Laughter]


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

Many, many people from the French high society and so forth. Uh, uh, well the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister of England at the time.


SM:

Uh-huh.


JP:

I cooked for him too. I remember even that particular dinner, because it was a plane leaving from London to go to Paris for a show. And I was pushing a salmon and the guy was telling me, okay, they are leaving, put the salmon on. And they said, no, they are not leaving. Take it out.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

It had to be done exactly at the right moment.


SM:

Oh.


JP:

So anyway. Yeah, it, it was, uh, it was another world, you know. So, uh, uh, but, uh, the point is that, at that time, the cook was really, uh, very low on the social scale and any good mother would've wanted their child to marry a doctor or a lawyer.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

Certainly not a cook. So never, never once would you ever be called to the dining room to get some kudos or stuff like that. That did, did not exist at all. The cook was in the kitchen, period. If anyone came to the kitchen, it was to complain because something went wrong. So, uh, uh, you, you never, never have any access to any of those people too. And, uh, so it, it was totally another world than it is now.


SM:

As well as being in Paris at that time and serving all those incredible people, you made, what I think is a, was a huge choice to move to the United States. It was around that time, wasn't it, just after that period, that you made that choice. And as a new American citizen myself, uh, I always wonder how people ended up coming to the United States because we all had such different journeys.


JP:

Right, right.


SM:

And so I just wonder, I wondered, what was your kind of, what was your thought process. Because you did, you came over in what, the late fifties?


JP:

Yeah. 1959.


SM:

Yeah. 1959. And so I just, what was in your process? Why did you suddenly go, well I need to be in America now?


JP:

Well, it's interesting because most people will immigrate to the US is very often for economic reason to get a better life, or political reason, or religious reason.


SM:

Yeah.


JP:

Or one of those things. I didn't have any of this. I had a good job in France [inaudible]. And I was going to come to America to stay a year. Maybe two years. Learn the language and go back. Because America, still the jazz. I mean, I remember during the, the war and so forth. So it was, it was still the, the, the golden place, you know?


SM:

Yeah.


JP:

The El Dorado. So I say, oh yeah, I gotta go to America a couple of years. And I came to America on a student boat actually.


SM:

Oh.


JP:

And, uh, and, and left it. Oh yeah. At that time there were students started going to Europe during the summer. So, I took that boat. I forget how I got it to it. But, uh, in, Loire, France, but there was a, like a thousand students coming back from different parts of, uh, Europe, American students. So, I remember on board there, I met a guy, one of the professors spoke French. So, he spoke with me and I said, you know, I'm gonna be in New York. And I want to, uh, to improve my, my English and all that. He said, well, the best school in New York is Columbia University, which. . .


SM:

Um-hm.


JP:

. . . never heard of it, of course. And then the day after I arrived, I work at the Pavillon. It was the 12th of, uh, September, I believe. And by the end of the month, I was enrolled at Columbia. I took a subway. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

. . . went there to, so the end of, the end of, uh, September, I was at Columbia, uh, ‘59 and I went, I continued Columbia until 1973.


[Laughter]


So, I went there a long, long time.


SM:

No, I was. . .


JP:

Working.


[Cross talk]


SM:

Yeah, I was going to mention that you'd, uh, you ended up obviously getting through, you know, with your academic record at Columbia. And both of. . . I have an uncle and aunt who live right by 113th of Broadway and both went. . . one went to Juilliard, one went to Columbia. So, I know that area very, very well. And it's just a wonderful part of New York. Feels like its own separate village.


JP:

Right.


SM:

Tell me about, uh, Le Pavillon because it, again, it's one of these restaurants that's so famous in terms of its build up and its importance.


JP:

Uh huh.


SM:

But I believe that Henri Soule? [Ed. Note: SM pronouncing as An-ree Suul.] I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing his name or not.


JP:

Henri Soulé. [Ed. Note: JP pronouncing as An-ree Soo-lay.]


SM:

Henri Soulé. [Ed. Note: SM pronouncing as An-ree Soo-lay.]


JP:

Henri Soulé. [Ed. Note: JP pronouncing as An-ree Soo-lay.] 


Yeah.


SM:

Uh, I believe he was a little tricky to work with, is that correct?


JP:

Well, I don’t know tricky, certainly very autocratic and, uh, uh, uh, you know, autocratic and all that. I mean he was, he came with, uh, 1949, uh, for the World's Fair with a group from one of the three-star restaurants in Paris. And then, because of the war, and they went back. And too, so yes, it was, it was really an extraordinary restaurant. When I first came there, I remember the first day, Pierre Franey, was the executive chef. So, you know, I came there with all my certificate in France. Whenever you work, including with the president in France, I had a certificate that I work in, in quality of such and such from that day to that day. And any place that you go for a job, you bring your, your certificate to look at. And I, I told Pierre and Pierre told me, I don't need to see that, it's fine. Well, alrighty.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

And I say, well, chef monsieur. And he told me, call me Pierre. Oh, wow.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

Call me. . . . So already, it was a taste of the democratic, uh, democratic world, which was different than it was in France, so already liked it. So, and I stay with Pierre. Well, I work with Pierre a long time. I mean, Le Pavillon, yeah, Le Pavillon was, uh, a very good restaurant. Uh, in some ways, I think that I had done as good or better, even in France in the restaurant at Le Meurice Hotel. . .


SM:

Uh-huh.


JP:

. . . or, or Plaza or, or Fouquet’s or, uh, that I worked in Paris. But, uh, uh, I didn't realize really the difference, at that point, because I had never worked at the other place. But you have to realize that, in 1959, I lived on First Avenue between Second and, uh, uh, Second and First Avenue and 50th Street in New York. Right in Midtown. And I remember that’s where I went to my first supermarket and I thought it was a good idea, uh, to have everything under the same roof. I didn't have to go to the fish guy. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

. . . the vegetable guy. So, but there was a lot of package, package, package.


SM:

Yeah.


JP:

There was beautiful beef, beautiful beef, beautiful lobster, rack of lamb. But there was one salad. That's what, iceberg. You know, there was no leek, no, no shallot, no oil vegetable, no great olive oil. And I remember saying, where is the mushroom? They say, aisle five. That was canned mushroom.


SM:

Oh gosh.


[Laughter]


JP:

You have to go to, you gotta go to a special place to get mushrooms. So, you know, 1959, considering the quality of what you find in supermarkets now and so forth. It's another world, you know.


SM:

It's completely different. I know I've just been writing or wrote about, uh, uh, Dione Lucas, who was, uh. . .


JP:

Oh yeah, yeah.


SM:

. . . who was working and she had the similar problem when she came from. . .


JP:

Oh yeah, yeah. I remember her. Yeah.


SM:

Yeah. So, uh, great character ‘cause she studied at Cordon Bleu and set it up in. . .


JP:

Yeah, yeah.


SM:

. . .in the UK. So she, um. . . .


I just, I actually want to share a story with you here though, because I think this, uh, is interesting about Le Pavillon because it goes into where you ended up next. . . is that . . . I. . . there's a book that came out. You might know it. Called, “10 Restaurants that Changed America,” by Professor Paul Freedman.


JP:

Yeah. Freedman from Yale University.


SM:

Yeah. So, uh, and I actually worked with him and we cooked this meal where we cooked one dish from each of the 10 restaurants.


JP:

Oh.


SM:

And so I, so I cooked it and one of the dishes was from Le Pavillon was the Vol au Vent Regence. So, we cooked the Vol au Vent Regence from, uh, one of the menus and, and everyone loved it. And we cooked for about a hundred people, or I can't remember exactly how many. UCLA with whom I do this, this podcast. . .


JP:

Right.


SM:

. . . the department of history. But the dish that everyone adored at a very posh restaurant, a very posh house, we cooked for everyone. But the dish that everyone went crazy for came from where you ended up working next. Which I believe next, anyway, or close to that, was at Howard Johnson's.


JP:

I did. Howard Johnson’s.


SM:

So, so what was fascinating for me was that we had one of the dishes from one of the first or one of the very great early French restaurants in the United States. But the dish that everybody loved was the fried clams from Howard Johnson’s.


JP:

Right.


SM:

And you, I, I would love to know how you went, in your mind, from being at . . .


[Chuckles]


. . . Le Pavillon, one of the greats, uh, to Howard Johnson’s, because that's such an unusual move. And I just, I, I just love the story of it.


JP:

Right. Well, you know, at Le Pavillon we had people like, uh, uh, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, like all the Kennedy family and one of the famous people was Howard Johnson. Then, was a very regular at Le Pavillon.


SM:

Oh.


JP:

And, uh, that's why he enticed Pierre Franey, uh, to come to Le Pavillon. At that time there was problem with Soulé, uh, the restaurant almost closed at Le Pavillon. There were all sorts of problems. So, uh, uh, Pierre Franey decided to leave Le Pavillon and go to, to Howard Johnson. And he asked me to go with him. And at that time, uh, actually I was offered a job at the White House, uh, for Kennedy, and I decided to go to Howard Johnson’s. And again, it was a different world for me. I know that I would learn about, um, mass production and marketing. I mean, American eating habits, uh, chemistry of food. I learned words like bacteria. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

. . . or basically, gravity or [inaudible], whatever I work with different chemistry. So, for me, it was a big, big change, certainly. And actually, I worked 10 years at Howard Johnson’s, 1960, 1970. When I left, I opened the restaurant on Fifth Avenue in New York called, “Le Potagerie.” Then I opened the World Trade Center with Joe Baum. Then I went and consulted at the Russian Tea Room. I'm saying all of that to say I could never have done any of those jobs without the training of Howard Johnson’s. So, Howard Johnson’s was, uh, a big change in my life. And, uh, and, uh, at that time, of course, I was going to Columbia. So, it was good for me. So, uh, Howard Johnson’s was quite different. And the fried clam would not be able to do it today. We had those clams, which were probably a pound and a half each. Enormous, enormous deep sea clams. And we open there and take only the tongue. The tongue on top is very firm too. That’s what was put in the machine to get long strip, to do the fried clams. And the body, the body of the clam, we did the clam chowder with it, you know, the, so, uh, yeah, that was, that was an interesting thing. Yes.


It was, it was a very good restaurant with table service with [inaudible] fresh, you know. You knew that you could go to any part in the country, it would be clean, nice, uh, good price, uh, good menu, high quality. You know, we had high quality [inaudible] at the, at the, the commissary and all that, prime beef and so forth. Yes.


SM:

I was talking to someone this weekend, in fact, when I was doing a cooking demo who had owned. . . his father had owned about five Howard Johnson’s franchises.


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

And they were telling me about the quality of what came in and about where they got. He said there was one place, I think it was Massachusetts. So no, uh, where they got all the clams from, there was one, he said it was one production place.


JP:

Right. Right. Yeah. That, yeah, absolutely. Right. Yes. I forget the name, but, uh, yeah.


SM:

It was incredible that they were able to produce that. And it was fascinating that it, it touched so many people. That one dish that people have that memory of a dish that they hadn't probably eaten for 20, 30 years, every one of this event. And they were still like, we, we cleared, we thought we were gonna have so much of it left over and they cleared every bit of that particular dish.


JP:

Good.


SM:

Even though we were cooking, we were cooking dishes from, you know, Mama Rose in San Francisco. We cooked a dish from, Chez Panisse, we cooked all of this wonderful food and that was the thing they all wrote on their notes afterwards going that they love more than anything.


[Laughter]


JP:

That's nice.


SM:

So, the other thing that I, uh, obviously this is, uh, we try and make this show very accessible, but we try and keep a kind of an academic level when we're talking about things. And I know, you know, you, you are, you are really, um, you have an academic background and you’re really. . . because of your time at Columbia. Um, and I was really fascinated about this and I, I. . . . But you moved into that, that academic realm and your first doctoral thesis. . . . Someone told me that it was called, French food in literature, if I'm correct.


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

And, and it was considered too frivolous, was it, they was turned down. You couldn't imagine that happening now.


JP:

Absolutely. You have to. . . . It was French food in the context. . . civilization literature. And I was starting with a 16th century, very well-known poem who wrote an apology of field salad, uh, up through the 18th century. Voltaire, Diderot, and so forth, up to the little madeleine of Proust, which was a long survey.


SM:

Of course.


JP:

And frankly, uh, at that time I didn't have much reference. It wasn't that many book done on the subject. So it was, uh, now, now, I mean, you know, in the, in the eighties, Julia, Charles and I created a program at Boston University. I'm still teaching at BU. I'll be there next month. Uh, so 37 years or so. And so we created a Bachelor of Liberal Arts with a concentration in gastronomy at BU in the mid-80s. And so that was totally new. I think it's still a, a program which is kind of unique. So, uh, yes, those things did not exist at the time at all. And when I proposed something about food that said food, are you crazy?


[Laughter]


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

I mean, you can't, you can't imagine people. . . . Now, people would love to read that.


JP:

Oh, absolutely.


SM:

I looked at this. . . You know, I, the, all of the people you talk about, or I would imagine you would talk about in that. . . of people I would want to read. And I, I thought about, you know, Proust again with the madeleine that he. . . a whole, a whole book about eating the, the joys of eating a madeleine and what it's. . .


JP:

Right.


SM:

. . . brought to his ma. . . . So, so, uh. . .


JP:

Right.


SM:

. . . I'd love to know who else would've been in there.


JP:

Oh, as I say, 18th century. . . . Studying even, even Molière in the 17th century. And I think, I can't find in, uh, many sense where they talk about food and all that. I mean, Molière say [Ed Note: speaking in French]. . . . You have to eat to live. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

. . . but not live to eat. You know, so already there was reference to food to an 18th century. . . to Voltaire, Diderot, uh, Rousseau, so on and so forth. Many in the 19th century. Uh, you know, not only from, uh, uh, from, uh, uh, Balzac and, uh, many other great authors of the 19th century, uh, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, so forth. So yeah, there is no lack of, uh, of reference to food in, uh, in French literature. I mean, certainly even in the encyclopedia, the encyclopedia of 18th century. You know, if you look at the article on butter, for example, how it has like 15 pages explaining and all that. It was something new too, and, uh, so, uh, yes, there was a lot of material to, to be had there.


SM:

I'll have to go. . . and it's, it's about time I read Candide again. I'll have to go and read it. . .


JP:

Oh yeah, right.


SM:

. . . and see more what all the food references are in there.


Um, now I, I also have a couple of your books. At this time, you began to start publishing books. I mean, I've got a few of your books, of course, but “La Technique” and “La Methode.”


JP:

Right.


SM:

Those were two of your earlier. . . . Now, I, I really interested, uh, by. . . . So many of the chefs I know are, you know, kind of, we've moved into a different food space now. And it's, we went through the sixties of great ingredients and seventies of Chez Panisse. But you came at it very much from a technique point of view. And particularly with the restaurants you still. . . . And I'm just interested why. . . . I mean, technique seems to be so fundamental and yet it seems to be almost dismissed now as in restaurants, because they're, they're not looking at that. They're looking at the ingredient first. And I'm wondering whether you find there's a balance between those.


JM:

Yeah. I, I don't think I would agree with you there. I mean, the technique is still very important. You know, that’s the difference between a professional chef and a home cook. Uh, when it’s 10 o'clock in the morning, you have a hundred people sitting down at 12 o'clock where you have to move. And that case of artichoke, if you do artichoke butter, you have to do it in 15, 20 minutes. You have to do this. So, the technique that is in the tradition of the food itself, whether you’re boning a chicken or, or make an omelet properly, is still extremely important, uh, for a professional chef, certainly. You cannot really survive without it. And it started in the 18th century, in France, where there was a consensus of opinion where things will be done this way. And you call that a julienne, or you call that a mirepoix. . .


SM:

Um-hm.


JP:

. . . or you call that, uh, you know. . . . that. . .  There was a consensus of a vocabulary, that you would do it this way.


And that's why the French Culinary Institute in New York, where I was the Dean for over 30 years, uh, was very good because you have like, I don't know, Bobby Flay, uh, uh, many of. . . . I mean, great, great American chef, uh, were at the French Culinary Institute. Uh, none. . . one of those are at the French restaurant, but they all learn. . . . They’re there to learn the proper technique of doing that to poach an egg. And that hasn't changed. That’s why my book, “La Technique” and “La Methode,” is published now into the corporate technique. Uh, Jacques Pépin in the last book is still published because the way you sharpen a knife, the way you bone out a chicken, the way you, you, you peel an asparagus or poach an egg is the same as years ago. Now years ago, you poach that egg and you did Bendictine with hollandaise sauce on top. Now you may put little pieces of asparagus around. So, they're doing it in the moment another way, but the egg is poached the same way.


SM:

And I think if, if anyone listening at home, any of the young chefs and we have, you know, oh, very good home cooks as well at home, if they have not got either the two books separately that I bought many years ago, or, uh, the, the book now completed, you must go out and get it. To me, it's one of the kind of absolute, uh, I think, Bibles that you should have in your kitchen. It really is.


JP:

Thank you.


SM:

No, it, it, it really is. And I was, I was interested in that because I see so many young chefs now and they, they're going, oh, well, it's all about the ingredients that it's all about this. And they're, they're forgetting that technique isn't a, a dirty word, which I think for some young chefs, they kind of think it is.


JP:

No. I mean, you, you can have extraordinary ingredient that I've seen make a real mess out of it.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

I mean, starting with the spring beans, for example. I mean, you have beautiful, tiny string beans and people will drop it in boiling water for 15 seconds. That's it. Well, it's raw, it’s not a raw dish. It's no good. It has to be cooked a certain amount of time, three, four minutes. But, and many techniques this way. And that’s what, as I say, makes a difference. You, you may have a home cook with a great cook. Very often you'll see when they finish, I mean, it's like a disaster area. There is food all over the place, leftover in that too. So, you know, the economy of motion, the economy of movement in the kitchen, you know, becomes very important. And that's part of the technique of a good chef. You have to produce whether it's Chinese or same thing, you know? So, it’s different training.


SM:

It's the same that, that technique.


Um, and, and, and, and that brought you on to yeah, where I first encountered you back in England. You know, I'm in my fifties now. When I first encountered you, when I was a student, I would turn on the television, the BBC, and that's when they first showed. Uh, and I hadn't seen you or, or, uh, even Julia, at that point, but you ended up coming into television.


JP:

Yes.


SM:

You know, moving in. . . . And, and to me. . . . And, and if anyone hasn't seen or gone on YouTube or go on Instagram and watch. . . . You know, I follow Jacques Pépin Foundation on Instagram. . .


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

. . . or if you go on to YouTube, you will see videos of you. There's one where you're making. . . . It’s one of my favorite things to watch where you're making a galantine. I think you do one cut with a knife, and then you bone out this chicken, and then you. . .


JP:

Right.


SM:

. . . you stuff it. And you do it with such ease, but you make anybody watching it look like they could do it too. And it's, it's much harder than you make it look. But I love that way that you educate on television. You seem very natural, the moment you were appearing on, uh, camera.


JP:

Thank you.


SM:

So, I just wondered how you got into that television process, because as someone who appears on television shows all the time, I know how hard that could be, and you just make it so natural.


JP:

Again, it has to do with the technique, you know. Because basically you repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. As an apprentice we were not paid. And you repeat to the point ad nauseam, you know, of, uh, doing one thing over and over and over again, so that it becomes part of your DNA. And so, you know, I have a bunch of food in front of me. I can look at the camera, think in terms of texture, in terms of combination, in terms that my hands are just moving, you know. And that becomes very important to do that kind of repeat other technician. Look at someone, uh, who is starting to cook and, uh, they're slicing something and slicing, and you come and say, you have any parsley. They say don't disturb me. So many [inaudible].


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

So as long as you, you have to trust on that level where technique is so much part of yourself, you don't have to think about it. And that's how. . . . I mean, certainly, was for me. Uh, of course, when I work with Julia Child for many years or James Beard or many others, they all said, when we started, they all say, I'm not a professional chef. And it's true. As a professional chef, you work in a different way because of the technique and so forth. That being said, uh, I know a fair amount of professional chefs who are very good technician, run a restaurant pretty well, keep their food cost and a relatively lousy cook. The food is okay, but not great.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

And I will be invited at someone’s home, and have a fantastic meal, you know, maybe better than with some, whatever. As I say, you may have so much leftover and stuff that you have. . . . It it's a different way of cooking, you know? So. . . . so. . . .


SM:

I think where I obviously really fell in love with you, and then with Julia, who in the UK really wasn't that well known. I think she only became more well known when, uh, the film, uh, that came out about her. . .


JP:

Yeah.


SM:

. . . cooking. Um, people then didn't really get to know her. But that's when I fell in love with the two of you together, because there was such ease.


But I, I understand, if I'm, if I'm correct, didn't she, didn't your first meeting have. . . . Didn't you have a problem. . . . Didn't she like cut off her finger or she, she got. . .


JP:

Oh, no, that. . .


SM:

Oh, was that. . .


JP:

Long, long after I. . . . I remember Julia 1959.


SM:

Oh, okay.


JP:

I mean 1960. I came here in 1959. 1960. So, the food world was very small. At that point, I had a friend of mine, Helen McCully, was the food editor of McCall's, House Beautiful. And she told me in New York, oh, I just got that manuscript of a book. You wanna take a look at it? And that was “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” But I said, wow, that's really good. And so, she said, well, the woman is coming to New York. Uh, you know, next week. You wanna cook for her. She said, it's a very tall woman with a terrible voice.


[Laughter]


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

So, Julia came and we actually spoke French because she just came back from France, like three years. And I was here six months. My English was, uh, not as good. So, what I'm saying is that I knew Craig Claiborne who just started the New York Times because he did an article on Pierre Franey and me, uh, and, and Craig and James Beard, because Helen was a good friend of James Beard. So, you know, six months after I was here, I knew the, the Trinity, the Trinity of Cooking in America, Julia Child, James Beard, and, and Craig Claiborne.


SM:

Incredible.


JP:

The food world, the food world, food world was very, very small. You know, it was another. . . . And then when Julia cut a finger, it was, I remember when I did “La Methode,” so it was 1970, uh. . .


SM:

Oh, so it was later.


JP:

. . . eight or something like that.


SM:

Later on.


JP:

Yes. 1978. And we were doing on the, on the tour or show in, uh, Los Angeles with Tom Snyder. And, uh, so she was in Los Angeles. ‘Cause originally she was from there. She went to see her sister. So, she bought enough food. We didn't have any recipe, just food too. And I was traveling, uh, showing my, my book there. And so, I came pretty late. They picked me up at the airport and I had a knife in my pocket. At that point, you could carry a knife, uh. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

. . .  that I put on the counter. Uh, when, when we start looking at the food 10 minutes before we start, she took the knife to cut a shallot and cut the end of her finger off. So, I push it back together, push it back together. We wrap it up in a towel. And she said, I don't wanna mention that to Tom Snyder. Which, of course, as soon as we opened the show, Tom Snyder said, you mind if I tell, you cut your finger.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

So that went into a. . . . She ended up on the Johnny Carson Show and here and there, and eventually they did it on Saturday Night Live. They did the spoof on that, you know, with her finger being cut.


SM:

Oh with, uh, Dan Ackroyd.


JP:

Yeah. Dan Ackroyd. Who fall over and say, save, deliver. Poof.


[Laughter]


SM:

[Laughter]


It was. . .  it, I mean, never having met, uh, Julia, um, was that as just as much fun as it sounds when you made those shows together?


JP:

Yeah, no, it was great. What people don't realize very often is that, you know, I have done the 13th series of 26 shows for PBS. Uh, so, uh, hundreds of shows. When I did many, many shows at the beginning, too, 30 minutes in a show, you have to do it on time. So, you know, you have a guy going back with a sign, 15 minutes, five minutes, three minutes, one minute. Wrap up and you have to do two or three recipes.


SM:

Wow.


JP:

So, it could be stress. . . stressing. And at that point, of course, when you did a series like this, cause this time I did a series, we have a little book. So, uh, they have the, the manuscript in the back kitchen to know what I needed and so forth. I'm saying all of that to say, when we did the show with Julia, we had no recipe.


She said, let's do. . . . So, we discuss the day before. Let's do stew or let's do whatever. So, you know, I happened to have a bunch of scallion there. So, it ended up in the recipe. Why? Because it was there. . .


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

. . . and we don't have any recipe. So, uh, it was harder for the cameraman because they didn't know where we were going. But it was very quiet for us. Second thing, we opened a bottle of wine when we started. And the third thing that Julia said, okay, we're going to cook. When it’s finished, we’re telling you. Those 30 minutes show end up being sometimes over an hour, you know?


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

So, uh, so you know, it was great. You cook, like you cook with a friend. You have an ingredient. You have a bottle of wine. And you have no time limit. So, so that's why it was fun.


SM:

I loved, I loved watching it and particularly as a, a, as a, a young person in the kind of nineties and watching it for the first time, and I'd never seen. . . . You know, we had people in the UK who were quite fun and really, really fun. Uh, but I'd never seen anything like that together. And if people haven't seen them, they're available. Do go and watch them. They're just, they're just the most fun.


Before, before we go on, I, I was gonna ask you just, uh, at the end of it, I, I hope you don't mind. I'll ask you some kind of fun questions and kind of. . . ‘cause I’m, uh, aware of your time. But, uh, just before, I'd love, just to hear. . . . We're talking to someone who has seen the culinary scene, particularly here in the United States, change over the last, however, you know, many years.


JP:

Right.


SM:

And I just would love to know, you know, when I saw you at Ming Tsai’s restaurant, the picture that I have behind me of our meal there, you. . . . One of the things you did immediately, you went into the kitchen, you chatted to the young folks that he has in the kitchen. Your enthusiasm was immediate. . . was there. They were so thrilled to see you. You seem to have kind of boundless energy for food even now.


Uh, what do you think when you look at the current situa. . . . Obviously, with the pandemic it's been slightly different, but generally, what do you think of the kind of food situation now to when you first started? It's just changed a lot, but from your point of view, I'd love to hear that.


JP:

Well, uh, you know, the pandemic probably caused a lot of devils, but it also probably caused a lot of people to cook together. I mean, at the beginning of the pandemic, my daughter, Claudine, told me, could you do some show like 3, 4, 5 minutes, uh, with what you have in your refrigerator, in the pantry, to show people. And we've done 220 of those. So, and we have a big, big, uh, following. So, you know, yes, people cook together. I mean, it seemed to me that, when I was a kid, going to the market with my mother, uh, the word, “organic,” did not exist. Everything was local because it was.


SM:

[Laughter]


JP:

Everything was fresh. Everything was local. [Inaudible] And it’s kind of coming back this way in some way with the farmer and all that. So, there is a big, big improvement, which has been done in the last few years because of, uh, that type of thing. People are getting closer to. . . . People are interested in wine. There was no wine when I came to this country. Or making bread. Or doing charcuterie. Different type of pâté. Making cheese, extraordinary cheese now.


SM:

Yeah. Yes.


JP:

All of that is kind of new, new in America. And it's very exciting in many ways. Of course, in the fixture of the restaurant now is difficult because of the pandemic. I would again, foresee restaurant, uh, more in the style of what my mother used to have but in a simple restaurant with one, one menu, single menu, three, four choices, but fresh every day where most of the customer are friends. They come there, they come to the kitchen to smell the food. . .


[Laughter]


SM:


[Laughter]


JP:

. . . and go through a kind of a, a kind of, very convivial type of ambience in the kitchen and dining room, cooking with friends. And, uh, and yes, uh, there is hope. I mean, we are doing that with the Foundation. My son-in-law is doing the Foundation where we are trying to teach people who have been disfranchised by life. And we are doing that through community kitchens. People who come out of jail, people who are former drug addicts, homeless people, veterans to kind of teach them those basic technique of cooking, you know, so that they can reintegrate in the workforce and work in that little restaurant. You know? So that's a very important thing, you know. Very gratifying too.


SM:

And I've done some work with people in that situation too, and I know the kind of the joy that they get from cooking apart from. . .


JP:

Right.


SM:

. . .even the serving of it is one thing, but just the joy of preparation.


If people want to, um, find out about the Foundation, I, I follow. . .


JP:

Right.


SM:

. . . the Foundation, of course, on Instagram. How. . . .Where would they go and look to find out everything that you're doing there so they can support it.


JP:

I could. . . . The Jacques Pépin Foundation. . . JPF Foundation on the, on the internet, you know. [Ed. Note: the website is https://jp.foundation] I've said, it's my son-in-law who created that with my daughter. My son-in-law had been a chef for 45 years, but, uh, he teaches at Johnson and Wales. Uh, he went back to school, he's got a PhD in education. What a great, great guy. And my daughter is doing that as well. And, uh, we've had basically the last year because of the pandemic. . . All of the chefs. . . most of the known chefs from, from the Jose Andres to Andrew Zimmern to Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, they all did a video for the Foundation for the people to access it. So, we had 50 chefs. Then we had another 50, then another 50. Now we have 150 chefs. . .


SM:

Wow.


JP:

. . . did a video with a recipe and all that. And any young chef who want to access this can become a member of the Foundation and they. . . it costs 40, 40 or $50 or something like that. So. . .


SM:

Wow.


[Cross talk]


. . . compare. . . . If you imagine 150 amazing chefs, uh, 50, $50 compared to what you would pay at the culinary school.


BREAK MUSIC


SM:

Hi everybody, this is Simon Majumdar, the creator and host of the Eat My Globe food history podcast. Now, those of you have been listening to the podcast since we began over two years ago – nearly 50 episodes so far – will know that we have never sought out sponsorship for the podcast. It’s very much been a labor of love. However, along the way, a large number of people have approached us suggesting they would like to support the podcast. And so, we have opened up a page on Patreon dot com to allow those of you who listen regularly to do just that. Any support we will get will allow us to purchase research materials, buy ingredients for recipes, and maybe, when we can get out and about, to bring you some very special in-the-field reporting. But, and this is really important. This is not just a one-way street. For varying levels of membership of our Patreon club, there will be access to fantastic Eat My Globe swag, including that incredible chopping board so many of you have written to me about, recipes based on historical periods about which we chat each week, video shout outs, signed pictures, and even along the way, some very special episodes just for members. So, if you’ve enjoyed the episodes of Eat My Globe you’ve listened to so far, and would like us to make many more into the future, do head over to www dot Patreon dot com slash Eat My Globe and consider taking out a membership. Any support will be much appreciated. Remember, that’s www dot Patreon dot com slash Eat My Globe. So, thank you very much, and keep listening.


SM:

You know, this has been such a joy. What I always like to do if I may, at the end, I like to just ask three fun questions before I let you go, uh, to the rest of your day. And I, I hope you don't mind ‘cause I just think it's a great way to find out about everyone. Um, so here are the kind of, I hope they're fun questions anyway, otherwise. Um. So this is really trying to put everything into a historical context, which we do here on Eat My Globe.


So, Jacques, if there was a period in time that you could return to, it could be any time in history and obviously, you know about it through so much of your research, any period in time you could return to, to experience just one meal, uh, what would it be?


JP:

It would be again with family. I mean, for me, food is shared with family, whether it would be with my wife and my mother, and so, for sitting together and enjoying food. You know, the, the, the process of food is maybe, you know, cooking for someone, maybe the purest expression of love that you can give. And it's a great equalizer. As I said, you know, to cook together and to eat together. So that would be that type of food, much more than the food of a great restaurant. I, I, I, I remember, I mean, dishes that I had as a child or dishes like were. . . are very visceral. Those things reminded my mind. I remember, I re. . . I remember those bunch better than an extraordinary dish that I had at Troisgros. [Inaudible]


SM:


[Laughter]


JP:

You know, so yes, to be associated with love.


SM:

What kind of dishes would those be? That I have certain dishes from my Indian background that come up. . .


JP:

Yes.


SM:

. . . all the time. What kind of dishes, if you, you. . . . The smell of it, the taste of it, you know, we're going back to Proust again, I guess.


[Laughter]


JP:

Yes. Proust and the effective memory, in Proust, you know, that's a very important memory. Memory of the senses are the positive memory of the brain. Uh, so when I walk in the woods with my dog, you know, I may not think about anything, but all of a sudden I smell mushroom. And I'm back when I'm seven years old, uh, doing mushroom with my father and brother. So those are the effective memory, you know, which attack you in the, you know, very powerfully in some point. So those visceral dishes. Whether the chicken and cream sauces of my mother. Or the Fromage Fleur. You know, the strong cheese, my father used to do.


SM:

Oh yeah.


JP:

Or the clam, you know, the spaghetti clam sauce that my wife used to do. Any of those.


SM:

Oh, it sounds amazing. Oh, now you've got me going.


Um, so here's the second question of our fun questions. If someone created a Jacques Pépin dish, blah, blah, Jacques Pépin, what would it be?


JP:

Would it be the greatest possible bread with the greatest possible butter on top of it? Bread and butter you can believe.


[Laughter]


SM:

Oh, like Échiré or something?


JP:

Yes.


SM:

Ooh, oh, you've got me going now.


[Laughter]


Bread.


Uh, and finally, as someone who's seen dozens of culinary inventions in your career, and I'm sure you've seen plenty. What do you think is the single most important invention in food history?


JP:

Oh, so I mean, you know, to, to paraphrase, uh, uh, Lévi-Strauss, French anthropologist, who said the process of cooking is a process by which nature is transforming into culture. And yet without any question, the cook does that, you know. It brings civilization. It brings culture to an area. The one who cooks. So that’s a very important process.


SM:

Fantastic. I, uh, Jacques, I can't tell you, just. . . this has been, as someone who has been a fan of yours for so long, uh, this has been a complete pleasure. Uh, uh, you've been, uh, so giving of all of your, your history. . .


JP:

Thank you.


SM:

. . . and, you know, so, uh, it's been fantastic. Um.


JP:

Great.


SM:

I want to thank you for coming on Eat My Globe.


JP:

Well thank you for having me.


SM:

And, uh, if you ever get a chance to go and listen to some of the other episode, we've done episodes on Escoffier. The last meals served on the Titanic. [Ed Note: Titanic Episode 1 is here and episode 2 is here.] Military rations. Uh, I'm just writing the history of. . . once I finish with you today, I'm going to write the history of rum.


JP:

Oh good. Yes.


SM:

So, uh. . . . So, it's gonna be a lot of, a lot of fun things, uh.


JP:

And we can, we can access that? I can ask my friend to, to access it for me because I'm not too good at it.


SM:

But please, uh, please do. We, uh. . . . This has been, uh, a complete joy for me. . .


JP:

Thank you.


SM:

. . . as it was when I met you about out four years ago. And I, uh, I just want to say, Chef Jacques Pépin, thank you for coming on Eat My Globe.


JP:

Thank you. Thank you for having me and happy cooking.


OUTRO MUSIC


SM:

Do make sure to check out the website associated with this podcast at www dot Eat My Globe dot com where we will be posting the transcripts from each episode, along with all the references and resources we used putting the episodes together, in case you want to delve deeper into each subject. There is also a contact button, so please do let us know if there are any subjects that you would like us to cover.


And, if you like what you hear, please don’t forget to subscribe, recommend us to your family and friends and give us a good rating on your favorite podcast provider. That really makes a difference.


Thank you and goodbye from me, Simon Majumdar, we’ll speak to you soon on the next episode of EAT MY GLOBE, a podcast about things you didn’t know you didn’t know about food.


CREDITS

The EAT MY GLOBE Podcast is a production of “It’s Not Much But It’s Ours” and “Producer Girl Productions”


[Pa pa pa pa pa sound]


and is created with the kind co-operation of the UCLA Department of History. We would especially like to thank Professor Carla Pestana, the Department Chair of the Department of History and Doctor Tawny Paul, Public History Initiative Director, for their notes on this episode. Also, a huge thank you to Sybil Villanueva for her help with research and the preparations of the transcripts for this episode, which can be found on the website.

Published Date: May 9, 2022

For the annotated transcript with references and resources, please click HERE.