Jacques Pépin finds a little irony in the session he’ll lead at the International Association of Culinary Professionals convention on Friday. That session is called “What French Cuisine Can Offer Modern Cooks.”
“The irony of this is that after 52 years in America or so, even after 10 years, my mother would come, and I would be cooking. She would taste what I’m doing and say, ‘Ooh, this is really good, but it’s not French anymore,’\u2009″ said Pépin, the French-born chef whose face is familiar to television cooking fans ranging from the earliest PBS shows to the Food Network era.
“So I don’t think that I’ve cooked truly, purely French — certainly according to her — for many, many years. But I don’t really care. I don’t try to cook French, but by the same token I don’t try not to cook French. I cook things that I like to eat,” he said. “In that context, I may be the purer American cook, because I partake of different types of cuisine, and that’s what we do here. Maybe the definition of American cuisine is that it’s not definable.”
Pépin’s canon of dishes both classic and personalized is represented in “Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites From My Life in Cooking” ($40, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), coming in October. In addition to his French cooking session, which is open only to IACP convention attendees, Pépin will be part of two IACP events open to the public on Friday. He’ll be part of a culinary book fair from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Hilton Austin Hotel, 500 E. Fourth St. ($10 in advance at iacppublicevents.eventbrite.com or $15 at the door), and he’ll judge the Edible Texas Wine Food Match at 7 p.m. ($100, details at www.edibleaustin.com/ediblewandf ).
American-Statesman: With so many books and cookbooks to your name, how do you find something new to say?
Jacques Pépin: I’m hungry. I want to eat, and I want to cook. There is always a new way of doing something, whether it’s an idea that you get in a restaurant or at the market or some place or another.
As a man who came up through the kitchen apprentice system, what do you think of the instant food celebrity culture today?
Well, it’s another world altogether. We don’t learn the same way that we used to. Last week, I went to the French Culinary Institute in New York. I was there during the finals. This is a six-month program where they do 600 hours of cooking. It’s very, very intensive. When I see what they can do after six months, I am flabbergasted. I would never have been able to do half of this in three years of apprenticeship. I heard a couple of weeks ago that there are close to 500 television shows on cooking. Many of them don’t do that much cooking. It’s more entertainment, which is fine.
In your memoir “The Apprentice,” you described the nuanced simplicity of making an omelet. If you were to teach one dish to a young cook, what would that dish be?
Maybe a leek and potato soup or a roast chicken, something simple but really satisfying. (Recipes below.)
I was surprised by your enthusiasm for commercialized food when you worked for Howard Johnson’s. How did you come to embrace that so fully?
It was exciting to know about American eating habits and mass production, which I didn’t know anything about. It was exciting to know about the chemistry of food. We had several chemists doing coliform and bacteria counts and so forth. And certainly later on in my life, when I opened the commissary at the World Trade Center and the restaurant called La Potagerie in New York or when I was at the Russian Tea Room and all that, I would not have been able to do those things if I hadn’t had the training that I had at Howard Johnson’s. Remember that Howard Johnson’s was not really a fast-food restaurant; it was a family restaurant with sit-down dinners with waitresses and all that. It was a very comforting, simple restaurant. Quite good, actually.
La Potagerie, which was all about soup, seemed to pioneer the specialty restaurant in America.

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Origins of the french cuisine

by destiny on November 26, 2010

french cuisine

French cuisine would not be what it is today if it weren’t for the influence of Italy, first and foremost through the culinary icon Catherine de Medici. Catherine, a Florentine who married into French nobility at the age of 14, had a profound influence on the Renaissance in 16th century France, specifically on French haute cuisine and entertaining. This plump young lady, who was later nicknamed “The Italian Grocer”, moved to Paris to wed King Henry of France, and while she shared no influence during his lifetime, the era following his death in 1574 was named “The Age of Catherine de’ Medici” because of her political influence during her 3 sons reigns and perhaps also due to her contributions to French Gastronomy.

When Catherine moved to France, she brought with her a crew of friends, servants, cooks, and waiters who can be held responsible for the French/Italian fusion. This group was responsible for exposing the French to new vegetables such as Savoy cabbage, broccoli, peas, boiled and fava beans, parsley, and artichokes. They also introduced new fruits including apples, apricots, peaches, cherries, figs, and melons. And while Italian chefs from her crew introduced secret recipes such as canard a l’orange (duck in orange), Catherine herself was responsible for a different idea of separating sweet and salty as well.

While this gluttonous lady was not very popular with the French, they particularly liked the desserts that she brought with her. In addition to breads, cakes, pastries, and marmalades, her ice cream and flavor ices, also known as sorbets, were a huge hit among the French. In fact, ice cream was a favorite among them as it was difficult to produce and ice was limited, causing it to originally be limited mostly to the wealthy. Other rich delights that she exposed to her new country were butters and truffles; aspics, a gelatin made from meat stock; and béchamel and other sauces. Another rich recipe that was introduced to the French was carabaccia, or onion soup.

Along with the food, Catherine brought a new elegant style and refinement to the table. She believed in a more lavish, gluttonous style of entertaining that included a more proper, civilized table setting. In fact, before Catherine only 2 utensils were utilized. It is she that introduced the fork to the French dinner table. She also brought more luxurious dishes and glasses so that the format of events was more proper. Venetian crystal glasses and fine silverware had been unheard of before Catherine de Medici graced them with her presence.

While Catherine may not have been the most admired individual in the French court, her presence without a doubt inspired and influenced French cuisine and affects meals served even today.

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France, perfect honeymoon destination

November 26, 2010

Honeymoon is the finest time to fritter with your beloved, to enjoy and to treasure the cute memories.To makes your honeymoon the most memorable one you can visit France. France is known the emblem of romance and is an ideal place to live a quality time with your better half. France is undoubtedly one of [...]

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Enjoying your holiday in France

November 24, 2010

It feels simply awesome wondering about spending the holidays in utmost adventure, experiencing the travel, the weather, golfing, hiking and camping. And all these point towards a place with incredible mountains, crazy beaches, and lovely nature, and needless to say but most important requirement, the suitable accommodation, i.e. the farmhouses, cottages etc., to experience the [...]

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French chocolate bread

November 24, 2010

While living in France, my family learned to love some recipes that we really miss now that we’re back home. After some experimentation and a few boo-boos, success is mine! Our first favorite is pain au chocolat. Roughly translated, it is chocolate bread, and it is a favorite breakfast food in France. It is also [...]

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French Culinary School

November 22, 2010

French cuisine is one of the most sort after cuisines in the world, and there are hundreds of French restaurants all across the country. If you want to replicate that fine culture and rich taste in your own cooking, whether hoping to build a career or simply to improve the food you eat each day, [...]

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Is American or French wine more popular in the US?

November 21, 2010

Knowledgeable answers only please French is the cuisine of choice for wealthier Americans, so wouldn’t they choose French wine also?

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Should I go to Provence, France?

November 21, 2010

My aunt is going to Provence, France for 15-18 days next summer and she said that I can go with if I want to. I’m 19 and I’m not sure if that’s somewhere I’d like to go or if there’s enough to do there for that long. Should I go?

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French Culinary Schools in America

November 19, 2010

While there are those who prefer to stick to traditional methods of cooking and traditional food, there are also a class of people who are always willing to experiment with new culinary delights! The French cuisine consists of traditional and regional dishes, as well as continental food flavored with the French ethnic touch. It is [...]

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Travelling to France

November 19, 2010

While travelling to France, what the first thing goes through your mind? Rightly thought, yes it’s the Paris, the wines and the landscapes. But France as a travel destination is much more than all this. So let’s start the journey to rediscover France and get lost in the landscape. France right from the ancient period [...]

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