|Jacques Pépin Celebrates!: Article|
A Brief History of Jacques Pépin -- As Told through the Small Screen
By Randall Cole
Beginning in October 2001, viewers can once again find Jacques and Claudine back in the kitchen as they pair up for their third show together -- Jacques Pépin Celebrates! Pépin's newest project will have many of his staple ingredients: good food and familiar banter with Claudine. But this show has a unique twist, focusing on many popular holidays and family get-togethers as themes for a variety of menus and entertainment in six one-hour specials including Chanukah, Christmas, Easter, and Jacques' favorite, Thanksgiving. Jacques and Claudine pair up to tackle some rather impressive recipes as they join friends and family at the Pépin family home in Connecticut. Viewers will be able to see first-hand the important roles that food and the dining room table play in Jacques' life.
But how did it all begin for the man Julia Child calls "the greatest chef in America today"?
Jacques Pépin is a very busy man -- acclaimed host of multiple award-winning cooking shows on national public television, a renowned master chef, a popular food columnist, a much sought-after cooking instructor and the author of 19 cookbooks. He is also a talented artist whose work is appreciated by his fortunate dinner guests that receive original hand-painted menus. He managed to also find time to focus on his interest in the Fine Arts, obtaining a Master's Degree in 18th Century French literature at Columbia University in 1972.
However, it is the theme of food that runs as a constant thread throughout Pépinpin's successful career. His initial exposure to cooking was as a child in his parents' restaurant in his hometown of Bourg-en-Bresse, near Lyon, France. From there, he had formal training beginning at age 13 and continuing on to the prestigious Plaza Athenée in Paris. He went on to serve as the personal chef to no less than three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.
Pépin's love of food and cooking followed him to the United States after his move here in 1959. In the following years, he authored many articles and cookbooks, including two groundbreaking step-by-step books on French culinary technique, La Technique and La Methode.
In the early 1980s, spawned by his passion for food and desire to share his enthusiasm with others, Pépin launched his television career with a cooking show produced by a public television station in Florida, WJCT in Jacksonville. In the decades that followed, Pépin has appeared as the star of many other acclaimed cooking shows. In 1991, his first major national series debuted through KQED in San Francisco with Today's Gourmet with Jacques Pépin which ran for three seasons through 1995. In recognition of trends towards healthier eating in the United States, Pépin successfully combined classic French cuisine with a California focus on fresh, reduced-calorie and low-fat ingredients.
In the mid 1990s, Pépin teamed up with long-time friend and colleague, cooking legend Julia Child for a public television special, Julia and Jacques -- Cooking in Concert. This special laid the groundwork for their later collaborations. But in the meantime, Pépin was busy in the KQED studios working on two specials -- Jacques Pépin's Cooking Techniques in the fall of 1995 and Jacques Pépin's Dessert Techniques in the spring of 1996. These shows focused on the detailed skills and techniques necessary to take viewers cooking abilities to the next level of expertise.
Following closely on the heels of these successful programs, Jacques invited his daughter, Claudine, to join him in the kitchen for a unique dynamic duo cooking show, Jacques Pépin's Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine, which debuted in October 1996. This show helped introduce a new generation of loyal viewers to the joys of classical cooking with the on-screen instruction of Pépin's daughter to the finer points of the culinary arts.
By October 1997, Pépin was back in the kitchen solo with a new series that served as a follow-up to his popular cooking techniques special. Jacques Pépin's Cooking Techniques served as a 13-part cooking class in the basics of cooking, from holding a knife properly to more complex skills such as preparing artichokes and caramelizing sugar.
By the next year, Pépin was back together in the kitchen with Claudine, and the only father-daughter cooking team on television launched a sequel to their successful series with Jacques Pépin's Kitchen: Encore with Claudine. The series was a big hit as Jacques and Claudine revisited many of the favorite meals they shared as a family reinvigorated the importance food in their household.
In the fall of 1999, Pépin found himself in Julia Child's kitchen as the two popular chefs joined forces again to create Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home -- an Emmy award–winning series which is set in Julia's own home kitchen. Their deep friendship and mutually held high professional regard gave viewers a chance to see the two legendary chefs improvise. laugh and discuss their way to consistently fantastic meals.
In 2000, Pépin completed a special with Maryland Public Television -- Chez Pépin -- which followed him to France as he traced his roots and gave viewers an amazing look into his personal history. The show made stops, including Connecticut (his adopted home) and France (his hometown and Paris, where he completed his apprenticeship, blossomed into a professional chef). Rumor has it that plans are in the works for a sequel to this popular special show.
Throughout his career, Pépin has sought to share his passion for food with those around him -- through the meals he serves and the meals served by the loyal fan base he has accumulated from his popular cooking shows. In a world hurtling along the road into the 21st century, Pépin reminds us that we should try a bit harder to slow down and just enjoy life -- good food and each other.