Jacques Pépin (born December 18 1935) is a French chef working in the United States. Pépin was born in Bourg-en-Bresse near Lyon, and began cooking in his parents' restaurant, Le Pelican, at the age of 12. He went on to work in Paris, training under Lucien Diat at the Plaza Athénée. He eventually served as a personal chef for Charles de Gaulle and two other French premiers. Upon immigration to the United States in 1959, Pépin turned down a job offer at the Kennedy White House, and instead accepted a position as the director of research and new development for the Howard Johnson chain of hotels. He stayed at Howard Johnson for ten years. In 1970, Pépin graduated from Columbia University School of General Studies and in 1972 earned a Master of Arts in 18th Century French poetry from Columbia. A time line of his life, based on his 2003 autobiography The Apprentice is available on the KQED website (Interestingly enough, most of Pépin's cooking shows were produced by the San Francisco PBS affiliate.)
Pépin has been featured in several television shows, including shows with Julia Child; one of Child's last cooking shows was the 1999 PBS series Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, where Child did a great deal of instructing while Pépin handled the heavier cooking loads. His work with Julia Child was honored with a Daytime Emmy Award in 2001.
Pépin also had a television show with his daughter, Claudine. (Claudine Pépin is married to chef Rolland Wesen.) He writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine. Over his career, Pépin has authored 18 books, including the highly regarded La Technique, used to this day as a textbook for teaching the fundamentals of French cuisine. The success of La Technique prompted him to launch a televised version of the techniques taught in the book, resulting in an acclaimed 1997 PBS series, The Complete Pépin, which he recently relaunched on PBS ten years after its initial run, noting in the introduction that now more than ever, the secret to being a successful chef and not a mere line cook lies in knowing and using the proper technique. He also received two of the French government’s highest honors: he is a Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1997) and a Chevalier de L'Ordre du Mérite Agricole (1992). In October 2004 he was awarded the highest honor of France given to civilians, the Légion d'honneur. His show Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way (based on his 2004 book of the same name) runs on PBS, and Jacque Pépin: More Fast Food My Way is currently in production for fall 2008. Along with the show a new book with the same name will be released.
Pépin serves as Dean of Special Programs at the French Culinary Institute, part of the new International Culinary Center, in New York City. He is also an active contributor to the Gastronomy department at Boston University, where he teaches an online class on the cuisine and culture of France along with professor Kyri Claflin of Boston University's history department. In addition Pépin also offers an amateur class each semester based on varied topics.
Pépin currently resides with his wife, Gloria, in Madison, Connecticut.
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