I spent Friday evening April 25 with Jacques Pépin and his daughter Claudine. Ok, not just me. Me and 2400 others. But we were in the same room for 1.5 hours. This is fact. I will be forever grateful to a neighborhood friend who offered these tickets to me just hours before the master chef took the stage.
As part of a lecture series at De Anza College’s Flint Center, Jacques and Claudine appeared together, with Jacques demonstrating key cooking techniques that form the basis of any cook or chef’s skill set, while Claudine played his straight person, wine refresher and adept assistant. Then they both sat down and answered questions from the crowd.
Making butter roses in seconds by scraping cold butter with a pairing knife
While Jacques demonstrated the down and forward motion for cutting, Claudine explained that when you stain your cutting board while chopping fresh herbs, it is only because your technique is flawed. Down and forward, not up and down.
Creating a “cherry” tomato from the flesh of a large tomato to use as a seedless, skinless flavorful unexpected garnish
Showing us how to peel the lower stem of the asparagus to remove tough portion and waste less when snapping the bottom off - however he noted that this could become tedious if cooking for really large crowds.
He also noted how dramatically the availability of food in markets has changed since he first came to the US - so much more variety in local and large chain markets.
Deboning a chicken, stuffing it with fresh vegetables, and putting it back together in a matter of minutes with just a sharp knife.
Questions from the crowd:
What foods would he not eat? Anything processed.
His story of coming to the US in 1959 and meeting the holy trinity of the food world in 1960: James Beard, Craig Claiborne, and Julia Child.
Favorite Julia Child story? Taping shows in her home kitchen and her unexpected requests – to drink beer when there was a winery in the house; to use Crisco to make crust when there was a butter maker in the house.
How he describes his girth: “I’m a bit short for my weight.”
What celebrity would you want to cook for and what would you cook? I most prefer to cook for my family and friends and like to cook what my guests most enjoy, not what I most prefer.
Jacques Pépin makes you believe that 80 is the new 50. He is as dexterous as a young chef and as sharp as his knife. Claudine is a perfect foil for his wit and charm and unabashedly shares her real life kitchen stories so we mere kitchen mortals can imagine what it might be like to cook with the master ourselves.
Do you have a favorite Jacques Pépin or Julia Child memory or recipe?