Jacques Pepin. What a legend. What talent. Impeccable technique. Enormous knowledge. He’s on Food TV with no games or contests. It just shows us how it’s done. Excellent presenter.
As Chef Pépin says, “I am very old. I will be 97 in 10 years. Shows no signs of slowing down. He published a book, “Quick and Simple”, in the fall of 2020. I just did it again, “Art of the Chicken”, this fall.
He also continues to post internet clips every week or so. And he is the culinary director of the Oceania cruise lines. He hosted an 11-day culinary discovery tour earlier this year. On board with the guests and leading the kitchen brigade.
Wow. People tell me, “You’re really busy. I thought you were retired. I’m busy. Sometimes I think about it too much. Then I remember what Jacques Pépin said when asked about his retirement. “Retiring from what? Withdrawal from doing what I love? Retiring from the kitchen? A simple but resounding “no”.
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He writes and paints. Another book will be released next year. Sign for Food and Wine magazine. And visits with her daughter, Claudine and her granddaughter, Shorey. They sneak on TV with him. Enjoy good food and good wine. Work for me.
Thanks to my friend Paul Ciavarelli, I have a copy of “Quick and Simple” from almost two years ago. It really is a practical book. I read it, then went back to specific recipes to see what it suggests we do. I made several and used many for ideas.
A recipe is a roadmap with directions. Follow it exactly the first time. If it’s from a reliable source, don’t change anything. Otherwise, you may miss something very important. Can be subtle. So don’t do anything to cover it up. Make it yours later.
This book contains recipes that Pepin has developed for us. Made for regular daily enjoyment. To spend with family. Not fancy. Not hard. Simply good. That’s what I like.
Pepin makes video clips on Facebook. Duration of five to six minutes. They take a dish from start to finish. Raw ingredients on the plate and ready to enjoy. He executes them on the spot. You might say, “Quick and easy.”
There is a new book: “Art of the Chicken”. Pepin’s celebration of this simple bird. It is his art first then stories followed by food and wine. It’s a pretty unique approach. It is as if we were visiting him at home. A sort of private tour of his work and the place where he creates it, followed by cooking with him in his kitchen. Then we toast over a simple chicken dinner. Throughout, he tells us stories. A short question is enough to help direct the bus. What time would it be.
Recently, I saw a TV show by Julia Child and Jacque Pepin where everyone makes a roast chicken. Two different approaches. Pépin seems to be waiting for Julia to hurry. Pépin, the chef, is much faster than Julia, the teacher. It was great to watch them and learn.
“Art of the Chicken” gives us recipes, but not presented in a regular form. Takes a little more thought. It reminds me of British food writer Elizabeth David. He tells us about roasted and grilled chicken, pâté en croute, southern fried chicken, coq au vin and more.
There are plenty of personal memories and stories to keep us listening for hours. We get to spend time with him that books rarely do anymore.
“Art of the Chicken” and “Quick & Simple” are must-reads for any foodie. Put them on your Christmas list now. Sixty-seven days in fact.
In the words of Chef Pepin, “Happy Cooking”.
Jim Sikes is a resident of Opelika; a food, wine and restaurant consultant; and columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Connect with him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim.