Jacques Pepin is one of America's best-known chefs. He is the author of 24 books, including a best-selling memoir, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. He has also hosted nine public television cooking series, the most recent of which is called More Fast Food My Way. Pepin was born in rural France and his first exposure to cooking was in his parents' restaurant, Le Pelican. He began his formal apprenticeship at the age of thirteen and went on to work in Paris as the personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. He moved to the United States in 1959 and studied at Columbia University. Pepin is a former columnist for The New York Times and now writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine. He received France's highest civilian honor, the French Legion of Honor, in 2004. He lives in Madison, Connecticut.
Topic: Eating Green
Question: Is sustainable, organic farming feasible for a country of 300 million?
Jacques Pepin: Oh it’s absolutely feasible because, as I said, my mother was an organic gardener without even knowing the word because we didn’t have any of the other, you know, chemical fertilizers and so forth. So we know how to do it. We know what’s sustainable. We know how to vary crops so that we don’t, you know, diminish the quality of the earth and so forth. So we know how to do that. We know how to use natural fertilizer and all that. So it’s not that we don’t know. It’s a little more work. And the food is cheap . . . The food is too cheap in this country. If it was a little more expensive, people would come in droves and the . . . the organic market is working 20% up every year now. So it’s been moving at incredible speed, but it’s still very expensive for certain people. By the time that it will be only 30% or 40% more than regular products, people are going to move in droves to organic products. And we should.
Question: Can healthy, organic food be mass-produced?
Jacques Pepin: I believe so. Even when I worked at Howard Johnson, there are things that you can produce well, especially now with new techniques of _____ and other innovations in technology that come about. If it’s done with the best product to start with, it will cost money . . . I mean there are great products now that come from Spain, for example – canned products with new way of canning which don’t have to be retorted, that is cooked so long that it diminish a great deal of the taste in those. So there is all kind of new innovation, yes. I absolutely believe that technically we will be able . . . we are already able to do food which tastes great, and are healthy, and are good for you, and are absolutely delicious, which is what’s happened for me.
Recorded on: 09/04/2007