Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Amy Meets Jacques Pepin! Behind the Scenes

There isn't much fame or fortune in writing for KQED's food blog, Bay Area Bites. But aside from getting to know some of my fellow writers on the blog, the best thing about blogging for KQED to date has been meeting Jacques Pepin. My adoration of Pepin is what initially drew KQED to me in the first place. So how much fun was interviewing him? I think the look on my face says it all. I tried to stay professional of course and even pumped some of my colleagues for questions beforehand, but I am just a fan at heart.

There is so much I adore about Jacques Pepin--his no nonsense approach, his impeccable techniques, his charming accent, the twinkle in his eye. He is perfectly cast in the role of cooking instructor. As you probably know, he grew up cooking in restaurants, was the chef for the president of France and even developed recipes for Howard Johnson's well before he ever set foot in a television studio. His perspective is wide-reaching and his knowledge is tremendous.

We only had a brief half an hour but we covered a lot of subjects. When we talked about local restaurants it wasn't surprising to hear him mention that he liked La Folie and Farallon on one end of the spectrum and tacos and Yuet Lee on the other, but it was enlightening to hear his views on the politics of food. For a "celebrity chef", he has a real concern with the current American obssession with food. And I can't remember the last time I heard a famous chef speak intelligently about the issue of starvation. I found his views on television particularly revealing!

After our interview I couldn't help but pull out just a few of his cookbooks for autographs. Of course, I had to choose from my collection or bring a hand truck! From seven or eight volumes I picked just four. The books I use the most are Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home, The Art of Cooking Volume 1 and Cooking with Claudine. These books are very approachable and taught me important skills. The latest book Fast Food My Way is also a keeper and includes lots of great soup, salad and vegetable recipes. For cooks or non-cooks his autobiography really gives great insight into his upbringing and how he became the person he is today and has some great recipes to boot. Needless to say, Pepin is one of my kitchen heroes and meeting him was an absolute delight.

Over at Bay Area Bites is the second part of my interview with Jacques Pepin.