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.
Question: Collectively, what should we be doing?
Jacques Pepin: We should open our frontier more than they are open. Even because we could benefit, as I said, from another point of view. We should invite more people. We should institute more dialogue. We should do . . . For example, one of my heroes is Bernard Kouchner. And he’s the man who created doctor without frontier in 1970, ’71, whatever. And he created doctor of the world as well as the co-founder of the Nobel Prize for this. Now this is a great humanitarian. He’s now the French Foreign Minister under the new government. Now he knows what he did in Kosovo, and other part of the world, for the health that people have. So he will know how to get to place like this to feed the people, to organize the products so that they get to the right people. So if I could talk to one person in the world, maybe I would want to talk with him because I think it would be very exciting because he is a great humanitarian.
Question: What advice can you give young chefs?
Jacques Pepin: I would tell them do it for love, absolutely. Don’t do it for anything else. Because ultimately that’s what that will amount to. You have to be gratified with what you do. I mean I have the best of all possible worlds. I make a living out of something I love to do, and probably would do for free, you know? And people pay me for it, so I’m very lucky. I never regretted to be in my business; but don’t do it, as I said . . . You could become famous and all that, because it may happen; but it’s likely that it may not.
Recorded on: 09/04/2007