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: Seasonal Food
Jacques Pepin: Well for me, I would detail what goes into a restaurant by the season, you know? I mean there is no other way for me to . . . I believe very strongly that we should go back to organic ingredient. We use as much as we can local product. You don’t have to pay for the transport, so it’s less expensive. Usually when you use something in season . . . when you have that tomato which is in full season, it is probably one of the best in terms of taste, which is what I’m the most interested in. But certainly on a nutritional point of you, it’s reached it’s peak, and that’s one of the best. And in terms of money it’s probably one of the least expensive. So now, even though now the seasons are kind of blurred at the supermarket by the provision of product that will come from all over the world, you know, but I still like to go . . . Like I’m going this weekend to get corn and get tomato when I have a lot of tomato in my garden myself, and salad; but I like to go to farmer. I mean it’s part of a ritual where you get ideas as well.
Question: Why is it important?
Jacques Pepin: Always there is a miracle in the garden of spring, in the growing of things in that season. It’s something which is fascinating – to see something which does make you believe in God. I mean as Voltaire used to say, there is a clock so there must be a clock maker. And the clock for me is maybe nature. So that’s why I say I’m probably a pantheist in that sense. I feel that all season are extraordinary. I mean the winter season as well. There is dishes that you will do in the winter season – from _________ to onion soup that you are not going to have in full summer. So I think that the seasons are extremely important for me. I could not live in a place where I don’t have the season. And I’m looking forward to any season, whether it’s the oyster in the fall, you know, or the game in the fall; or then certain type of vegetables that I eat only in winter. And of course I’m dying to wait by mail June for the first strawberries as well as the peas out of the garden. So the season is a great part of my cooking.
Recorded on: 09/04/2007