The Chef Who Saved My Life
July 3, 2015 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Here is the story of The Day Jacques Pépin Saved My Life. That’s how I tell it, anyway —at parties, over dinner, on those occasions when a friend finds himself drowning in his own life and I’m cast as an unlikely dispenser of wisdom. That’s when I try to assure him that salvation can come in the most unlikely of guises: in the guise, say, of Jacques Pépin, who, when I, too, was lost and deep in dark waters, came along and showed me the way to back to the light.
posted by Shmuel510 (24 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
Holy cow, that made me tear up. I have always liked Jacques Pepin but I never knew he was such a mensch.
posted by Kitteh at 7:50 AM on July 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

Just finished reading this myself via Longreads, and, as always with Jacques Pepin, came away charmed and delighted by him. Can you imagine thinking you're going to maybe get 20 minutes of distracted, throw-away comments from him and end up spending most of an afternoon sipping wine, eating great food, and chatting? And then the writer had the guts to call him up and do it AGAIN! Makes me want to pick up the phone RIGHT NOW and make an appointment to see Chef Jacques next Tuesday!
posted by briank at 8:04 AM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

It's hard to read when your eyes keep welling up. Thanks for the link, Shmuel510.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:11 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I just want to echo what everyone else is saying. At first I was inclined to skip the story because it seemed like a stealthbrag celebrity anecdote that had been given a dollop of unearned profundity so it could be expanded into a "And then it hit me..." feature article.

But! It's actually a really moving subversion of what you're expecting and a great tribute to Pépin. Even if you don't care for the author's journey, at least skim down to the middle section, about Pépin's life. I guess from there you could skip the rest, but you probably won't want to by that point.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:13 AM on July 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

That's a great piece. Well, now I know what new books I should buy.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:28 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

He's a resident of my town, Madison, CT. Great guy; very civic-minded.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:40 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Jacques Pépin was the commencement speaker at my graduation. It's rare that you encounter someone who's quite so accomplished, and also so giving of their time, thoughtfulness, and empathy.

I could not have asked for a better person to listen to on that day.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:55 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

The show mentioned in the article—Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home—is basically treasure. They're having a tremendous time doing it, and she keeps calling him "Jack" while he's doing prep work or whatever. Plus there is always wine. All that's really missing is a dog nose peeking over the counter.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:59 AM on July 3, 2015 [14 favorites]

I could watch that man cook all day long.
posted by at 10:06 AM on July 3, 2015

I adore Pèpin. I love to watch him cook especially because his nimble hands remind me of my beloved grandfather's (who is gone almost nineteen years this fall). My grandfather was a good cook but also a woodworker, and watching Pèpin brings me right back to watching my grandfather make little bits of furniture for my dollhouse or crack eggs for breakfast. That quick and sure motion of skilled, deft hands is exactly the same. This article is fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing it!
posted by katie at 10:25 AM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

What kitteh said. Although I'm at best a mediocre cook who basically makes the same stuff over and over, I've always liked Jacques Pépin just based on his TV show. He strikes me as the opposite of the "haughty Frenchman" stereotype - very down-to-earth. Now I like him more.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 10:47 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

He has given my husband and I many happy hours watching him cook on TV, alone and with his daughter and Julia. My husband, a serious cook, has soaked up more from his books and taught me many of his ingenious food techniques. And I loved his book, mentioned in this article:

his lovely 2003 memoir, The Apprentice: My Life In The Kitchen.

But this article touchingly pointed out Pepin is much more than a remarkable chef -- he is a modest, kind and happy man with a gift for gratitude and genuine affection for others. He seems to embody many of the lessons I am learning from the Dalai Lama in The Art of Happiness.
posted by bearwife at 11:19 AM on July 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

Here's the deep-fried egg technique the author mentions a couple of times in the article. Just a thing of beauty.
posted by xingcat at 3:12 PM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

I didn't expect that to be quite as lovely and moving as it was. Thank you for the link.
posted by Ragini at 7:08 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mr. Roquette and I love Pépin's show. Mr. Roquette has worked in restaurants. He and I always wondered if Pépin's was cool in real life. Now we know he is! Good on the writer for thanking him! What a great article!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:25 PM on July 3, 2015

Pepin's memoir really is lovely - you get a sense of his populism, and his humanity, which I find by extension in his cookbooks. He doesn't want to dazzle (though he can't help it); he wants people to know they can do all this for themselves.

My father worked in L.A.'s Pacific Design Center designing kitchens in the early '80s, when foodie-ism was relatively nascent. One day a heavily-accented, very genial man set up a exhibition there of a stove he was paid to endorse. Pop recognized Pepin and scooted home to get a book for him to autograph. Which he did with pleasant chat and no indication of being other than a fellow salesman.

[I make those deep-fried eggs to put on rice with chiles, sesame oil, scallions, and garlic. They're not quite as easy as Pepin makes them look (Pepin makes everything look easy!) but they're pretty simple, and really fun to eat.]
posted by goofyfoot at 8:09 PM on July 3, 2015

My grandfather was an amazing cook and restaurateur, back before there was a Food Network or really anything but Julia and maybe the Frugal Gourmet on TV. He ultimately set me on the path to not only enjoying preparing food, but also sharing it with others.

I lost him twenty years too soon, and in some ways finding Jacques Pépin's shows and books brought a little of my grandfather back to the living world for me. Pépin has the same congenial ease in the kitchen my grandfather had, he isn't fussy, he definitely has a sense of humor, and apparently he's just a great guy. Some of the more humorous exchanges he has with his daughter on one of his cooking shows could have been my grandfather and me.

I'm so happy to hear his mother is still alive in Lyon. Her recipe for pan-crisped deviled eggs is a favorite of mine, and it just tickles me to think that she's still out there somewhere, possibly still making that recipe, but probably not.

Anyway, where's to Pépin and longevity! Long may he sip wine and chew on baguettes.
posted by offalark at 11:11 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

That's a damn fine piece of writing and Pepin is a jewel.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:51 PM on July 3, 2015

I learned how to cook from TV and from practice. My mom, a lover of fine food was not facile in the kitchen and my dad's attempts are family comedy gold (although he has improved greatly).
Jeff Smith was a cook teaching the 'what'.
Julia and Jacques both were chefs the 'how'.
Alton Brown was a scholar teaching the 'why'.

Oddly enough, I have two kids at opposite ends of the food spectrum. One would eat a boot, the other assumes everything you serve is a boot.

Yet, there is one dish the latter will consume in vast quantity: broccoli piquant, a simple recipe from Jacques Pepin, which is steamed broccoli served with a lemon vinaigrette with Tabasco sauce. He does not yet know there is Tabasco in it. I intend to wait until he's married for that reveal. Meantime, this dish ensures that he at least won't get scurvy.
posted by plinth at 6:25 AM on July 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another plug for the 2003 memoir, it's a wonderful book. I bought it at a remainder shop in a crap mall at the end of a really rotten day when I just needed something to read at the airport hotel in the middle of another aggravating work trip...and it lit me right up. I think I stayed up until 3 or 4 in the a.m. just grinning and turning pages.
posted by hearthpig at 7:51 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Apprentice really is a gem.
posted by brainwane at 1:20 PM on July 4, 2015

Chez goofyfoot we cook a lot and when something turns out terrific my fella turns up his French accent and says a la Pepin "My way is BETTAIR."
posted by goofyfoot at 3:11 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

My favorite Jacques word is "BUUUD-err."

He is the best.
posted by St. Hubbins at 10:13 AM on July 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

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