This story first appeared on MELand screenwriter Eddie Kim interviews the father-daughter duo.
Throughout her life, Claudine Pepin insisted that she did not want to cook in a professional setting. She had no intention of following in her father’s footsteps and did indeed earn a degree in political science while studying at Boston University. But when in Jacques Pepin asks you to cook, you can’t refuse – that’s exactly the situation she found herself in, traveling from the East Coast to San Francisco with her father.
“He tells me, ‘We’re going to Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic.’ And an hour before the performance on stage, he looks at me and says: “You will come with me.” I just replied, “I’m going to which?“, says Claudine. “He says, ‘Don’t worry, everything will be fine.’ I asked him why he didn’t just tell me more beforehand, and he just said, ‘What good would that be?’
Thus began the first collaboration of many, though Claudine was not quite aware of it yet. The duo made three television series together, starting with Cooking with Claudine in the 1990s. The episodes aged beautifully, balancing on the chemistry between father and daughter; she is the perfect foil for Jacques, playing an everyman and asking a lot of fundamental questions.
“But all the time when we were just starting to work together, people always come up to me and say, “Oh, you know what are you doing! You’re just pretending!” Claudine tells me, laughing. “But I wasn’t. I really learned everything for the first time.”
To be fair, this is It’s hard to believe that the daughter of Jacques Pepin – the most mythical and revered man in cooking – ever avoided learning how to cook. He began his professional career at just 13 years old, studying in one of the best cuisines in France, then cooking for French President Charles de Gaulle, running the legendary New York Le Pavillon, and even revolutionizing Howard Johnson’s menu during the heyday of the restaurant with an informal atmosphere. .
Jacques is the author of countless influential books, including an indomitable cookery bible. Techniqueand an educator who has lectured all over the world. He is also a pioneer of food television and became a household name in the 1980s for his combination of brilliant skills, laid-back storytelling and practical advice. Like his good friend Julia Child, Pepin became an inspiration to those who were trying to learn not only how to cook, but how to really cook. love all aspects of eating and eating.
Upbringing Jacques and Gloria Pepin, which itself was a culinary force of nature, made a strong impression on Claudine. Perhaps she did not fully understand Pepin’s fame and did not pay attention to the fact that his friends were legends in the culinary world. But she learned to eat really, really well — and despite never wanting to cook for a paycheck, Claudine forged a professional bond with her father that kept their relationship strong for decades.
Claudine has made a distinguished career, becoming an expert in the wine industry, lecturing at the French Culinary Institute and writing several books. Today she is the President Jacques Pepin Foundation, which began in 2016 and aims to educate and help people who are struggling and denied their right to work. But she is also forever entwined with myths about her heritage and continues to add the legacy of her father and late mother. Own daughter Claudine, who graduated from high school, also claims she won’t work in the culinary field, but then again, her grandfather has already featured her on TV and in a cookbook, so who knows?
I recently spoke with Jacques, 86, and Claudine, 53, to reflect on the incredible food, memories of the road, and how the kitchen became their channel of communication.
So, that first experience at Aspen Food & Wine… Did you plan this surprise for Claudine in advance or was it a spontaneous decision?
Jacques: I don’t know if this was planned before, but I thought it was about time. I made three series called Today’s gourmet, every 26 gigs, and then I thought, “Maybe I should take someone with me.” I didn’t want another chef next to me trying to compete or anything like that. I wanted someone I love to be by my side voice of the people, if you will be. To be able to ask questions that ordinary people would like to ask if they could be with me. So I thought Claudine was great – she was good on camera and comfortable.
When we worked together, I purposely never told her what the menu would be. People said, “Well, she must have already known that.” She didn’t! Maybe she ate it all her life, but she never cared how things were. Performed.
I mean, I remember when she was 10, 12, whatever, she didn’t know what she was going to do in life, but she thought that she would never, never do what I do.
Claudine: This is true!
Claudine, when you were growing up, were you aware of your father’s fame? For example, the fact that JFK wanted him to be his chef, or the fact that he knew all the superstars in the culinary world.
Claudine: I think the realization really started when I went to college. At first I didn’t think about it. Julia Child and I were friends, so we used to go to her house all the time when I was little. I mean, she wasn’t terribly interested in talking to me. [Laughs] But we were surrounded by all these chefs who were very, very, very famous in their own right. So it was hard for me to see your dad stand out when you hang out with Martin Yan. You go to Chinatown with Martin Yang, which is what we did, and my dad isn’t the most famous.
But I remember we were in San Francisco or something, and we were walking down the street, and one guy the size of a Mack truck started running right at us. I had no idea what was going to happen, but all he wanted to do was hug my dad and say, “Oh my God, I love your shows.” Two people also stopped us in the street without any prompting, just to say how much they love my dad. When this happened, my awareness increased greatly.
So, it was clear from a young age that Claudine didn’t want to cook, but when did you first see and understand that she loves to eat, Jacques?
Jacques: It has always been so. As a family, we did not eat in portions – every day we sat down to dine for at least an hour. She has been doing this since birth. Even when she was very, very young, we never bought baby food. Whatever we ate that night, I put it in a blender without too much salt and pepper and mashed it up. So she had that taste. It was part of who she was and she knew the taste even when she was tiny.
i like your story memoirs when she’s little and having dinner at a friend’s, and the friend’s mother asks her, “Why don’t you eat asparagus, Claudine?” And she answers something like this: “I’m waiting for the Dutch!”
Jacques: Right, yes. [Laughs] It’s fun.
Claudine: I know Mrs. Pratt and still call her Mrs. Pratt, and yes, she loves the story. She called my mom. She’s like, “What kind of crazy baby did you send me?”
Jacques: Claudine didn’t realize how refined her taste was. She may not have been interested in cooking, but all her life she went to places like Lutes in New York under the direction Andre Soltner. He was my good friend; she called him “uncle”. And many other great restaurants from Le Cirque to anything. She has been going to France since the age of six. So she may not have known the usual elements of culinary technique, but she was familiar with the best restaurants and markets in the world.
Claudine, what was it like to start cooking with your father and be more critical of it, avoiding nuts and bolts for most of your life?
Claudine: Well, it was interesting. It solidified my resolve that I never wanted to work in a professional kitchen, let me tell you. It’s just a lot of work. But I do remember a few events we did where we had to deliver food for a while. a lot of of people. I was needed in the kitchen and after all these years I was surprised by what I learned from osmosis alone.
Well, Jacques, perhaps in another universe, Claudine never got to work with wine. Never appeared with you on a TV show. What would you miss in life?
Jacques: She taught me patience. I mean, I don’t work with her now the same way I did in 1989 when she really didn’t know anything and so on. I’m not sure if you remember, but I mention in my book that when she entered Boston University, she had a small apartment near campus that I prepared for her. And she invited me to dinner one night. Have you read this?
Yeah. She made the infamous chicken.
Claudine: No, it wasn’t a chicken. I did chicken. I fried an old chicken. Because it was more expensive, so it was better. I went to the store, I saw the chicken, then I saw that the chicken was more expensive. It turned out very similar to the shoes you wear. [Laughs]
Jacques: It’s completely different now because she’s pretty good at cooking and has her own ideas. Now she does it her way, not necessarily my way.
What was the hardest thing about working with your father, Claudine?
Claudine: I think the difficulty is probably never to be taken as a professional in your own right. Because this is a family. So I’m a professional and I know a lot about what I do, whether it’s a foundation or whatever. It is very difficult for him to see me as someone other than his daughter. So, listen, I feel like my professional opinion should always be supported by someone else. It’s difficult for me. But, probably, this happens to everyone who works with their family.
To be fair, I’m following Tony Bourdain’s line up to the T: if Jacques Pepin says that’s how an omelette is made, I think the matter is closed. My husband, a chef, can tell you there is another way. And I said, “Well, that’s wrong – my father does it, and it’s done.” So maybe there are blind spots on both sides.
Jacques: I don’t know if I agree with her that I don’t respect her opinion on this or that issue. This is not entirely true. I mean, maybe it was when you were six years old. But now, if you don’t like this or that, I will respect what you feel, even if I don’t agree with it.
Claudine: [Pauses] Oh, this is progress!
I think it’s always hard to work with a family. But nonetheless, Claudine: you’ve seen all your life how your father was a professional. Jacques: You raised her and are now working with her, 50 years later. What did this connection give you both?
Jacques: Well, Claudine is my whole life now. So working together is very helpful. I mean, I can imagine when she was four and I can see her now that she’s a little older and see how she’s progressed. Now she has a baby and we are very close, maybe even closer than [Claudine and I] were when she was a child. So it’s been very rewarding and it’s all basically based on cooking, being together and eating together.
When the child returns from school, the best place is in the kitchen. Hearing the voice of mom or dad, and the smell of the kitchen, and the taste of these dishes – it will stay with you for life. These are very emotional moments. Very powerful. So it’s the culmination of what we’ve been doing all our lives. And we are happy that now we can do it together. I mean me.
Claudine: And for me, I think it’s 100 percent trust. Like one million percent. And for me, a father is the first man in your life, and, unfortunately, for every guy that I had, he was the one by which everyone else will be judged. I know, of course, that he is in my best interests. So it’s just trust. I don’t trust anyone anymore.