Jacques Pépin's centennial celebration tribute video to Julia Child. Produced by Mike Klozar.
She was the Paris-loving home cook from California who made French cuisine accessible to generations of supermarket shoppers. Apprenticed to restaurant work at 13, once the private chef to Charles de Gaulle, he was the French-born, classically trained chef who made America his home. Their friendship stretched through decades, through hundreds of meals and over many bottles of wine. But how did culinary icons Julia Child and Jacques Pépin first meet?
In 1960, Jacques Pépin had been living in the States for just a few months, working for Henri Soulé at Le Pavillon, where Manhattan's crème de la crème swapped society gossip over quenelles de brochet. It was a quick way to learn the who's who of New York's many overlapping power circles, including the media. Through Craig Claiborne, the influential food editor of the New York Times, Pepin become friends with Helen McCully, the editor of the then-popular magazines McCall's and House Beautiful. When she snagged an advance review copy of Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she took it straight to Pépin. As Pépin recalled in Memories of a Friend, Sidekick, and Foil, McCully told him that the author was from California, and was "a very tall woman with a really terrible voice." She invited Child over, Pépin cooked, they talked food and France and a lifelong professional partnership was born, thanks to their dedication to classic French cooking and their mutual respect and fondness for each other's home countries. (Pépin left Le Pavillon not long after, lured away by his colleague Pierre Franey, who had been Le Pavillon's executive chef, to work in culinary development for the Howard Johnson's motel and restaurant chain.)
When their schedules allowed, they taught classes together at Boston University, where Pépin was teaching, or did tag-team cooking demonstrations. Child, a public-television star since the early 60s, took their friendship onto the screen, pairing with him for Cooking in Concert, two he-says, she-says specials that were filmed at Boston University and aired on PBS. He was precise, with warp-speed knife skills; she supplied the gently teasing banter and grand dame presence. Here, Julia and Jacques melt, whisk, and bake their way through an extravagant amount of butter as they prepare a lavish meal for formal entertaining: rolled flounder fillets with beurre blanc, standing rib roast of beef, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and strawberry tarts.