Here is the second part of our interview with Jacques Pepin. Part one is here.
When you ask chefs what are their favorite dishes, it seems like nine times out of ten the answer is roast chicken, something very basic--
When the question is asked, often it doesn't necessarily have to do with the food. It's like I said in a book I did with Claudine, my daughter. She had a small apartment at Boston University when she was a freshman in college. She decided to cook for me. She did just a roast chicken with a salad and potatoes. She started way too early and I came late and that was a bad combination. The chicken was disintegrating by the time I got there. She asked me how it was. I say, "as a father or as a chef?" And that's the point.
If people ask you what is the greatest meal you ever had in your life, usually it is going to be a dish that has to do with something more emotional than the food itself. It has to do with the family, or with memories from when you were a kid, with many things, which encompass the whole art of living. We do remember those dishes much more than what you had at Per Se in NY or at Farallon here or whatever.
How does being a home chef compare to being a professional chef?
It's different but the greatest expression of love is cooking because you always cook for the other person, whether it is your daughter, or your father, or mother, a friend, a cousin, or a lover. It doesn't matter. I don't know many people who are going to set up a table with beautiful crystal, put on a tie, bring flowers, open a bottle of champagne, and sit down to eat by themselves. That would be quite depressing.
As a professional chef, you still have to work on Saturday and Sunday; you still have to work 16 hours a day, and you don't make very much money. There are a few exceptions like Wolfgang Puck who have created an empire. But in general you are not going to make as much money as a lawyer or a stockbroker, or whatever. All of that is fine if you really truly love it and get gratification from what you are doing. But if you go into the business as many young people do now to "become the new Emeril" or to write a book, you are very likely to be disappointed and not last very long.