KQED's October issue of The Guide has a little piece about the new Jacques Pépin show, More Fast Food My Way, premiering this Saturday. I must to admit to snorting when I saw that the article's timeline of a day in the life of the show started at 10:30 a.m., because the back kitchen was there between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m., and Jacques himself was in not too much later.
We'd all be prepping, and he'd come in for his coffee blanched with Straus cream. After a few sips, he'd quietly look around at what we were doing and that's when we knew it was our time. Laura Pauli (Cucina Testa Rossa around these and other parts) told me that every morning working on this show -- she's worked on past shows with him -- was nothing less than a private cooking lesson with Jacques Pépin. She could not have been more right. Except, they weren't just cooking lessons, they were lifelong memories.
Going down the line, Jacques would answer any questions we had about the recipes and explain in detail -- often demonstrating or watching and correcting -- exactly how he wanted the fish portioned or how much of the broccoli he wanted trimmed. Because Jacques is the eternal teacher, he wanted to demonstrate his prepping and cooking techniques as much as possible on the show. He didn't want everything done for him, all neat and tidy and magic-of-television perfect. So, if he had a special way of drumming out pomegranate seeds that hadn't been filmed yet, he wanted to be able to do that.
Sometimes things would change mid-stream and the prep we had done in the morning was tossed. For instance, maybe the recipe called for 1 cup leeks, diced. Well, 1 cup leeks, perfectly diced went out to the set. But maybe while going over the episode's blocking, it was decided that we had enough time for Jacques to show how to clean and dice leeks. As food runner (the other half of my duties), it was my job to dash back to the kitchen and grab or holler out for undiced leeks, make sure the ends were trimmed just enough (not all the way, but tidied up the way Jacques liked them), and run them back to the set.