Friday, September 19, 2003

Jacques Pepin

You learn by doing. How many times have you heard that? It couldn't be more true when it comes to cooking. I have been very lucky to learn from my parents who are both good cooks and to learn from a wonderful cook whose family I lived with in Italy. Watching, listening, smelling, touching, tasting, all are necessary to become a good cook and are done in person. I was reminded of this reading the beginning chapters of Jacques Pepin's The Apprentice-My Life in the Kitchen.

I adore Jacques Pepin. There I've said it. While I've never even met the man, I have at least 4 of his cook books and have watched him cook on TV for countless hours. The next best thing to sharing a kitchen with a great chef is to read a good cook book or to watch a cooking show. And I have learned so much from watching him. His techniques are inspiring. Like watching an artist with a paint brush or a muscian with an instrument, the way he uses a knife is just amazing. He can make de-boning a chicken look like something as simple as tying a shoe!

Some of my favorite recipes have come from Jacques Pepin--a recipe for tart tatin with pears, ricotta dumplings, roasted red pepper sauce, potato crusted fish, I could go on and on. In his latest book, he recounts his early childhood and sprinkles in recipes along the way. But reading this book I realize, it's not just the recipes themselves or techniques; his enthusiasm for cuisine and for wanting to cook for people are really what it's all about. While I may never match him in skills, not only do I admire him, I certainly share his passion for the culinary arts and hopefully that helps to make me a better cook.