Jacques Pépin: Fun Facts for Foodies

Elisa Lichtenbaum | May 22, 2017

Jacques Pépin on the set of Jacques Pépin Heart and Soul.

Jacques Pépin on the set of Jacques Pépin Heart and Soul. Credit: Kevin Byrne / Courtesy KQED


As a young immigrant to the U.S. with movie-star looks and a charming Gallic accent, Jacques Pépin elevated essential kitchen techniques to an art form to become one of America’s most beloved food icons. Jacques Pépin, James Beard, Julia Child and Alice Waters are all part of American Masters Chefs Flight in May, which includes documentaries on each culinary legend. Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft traces Pépin’s journey starting with his childhood in the countryside of wartime France, where his family’s tradition of entrepreneurial women running homegrown restaurants propelled him into an early culinary career. It premieres Friday, May 26, 9 pm on PBS (check local listings).

Fun Facts

Jacques Pépin and his best friend, Jean-Claude Szurdak, in an early magazine photo shoot. © Eugene Cook

Jacques Pépin and his best friend, Jean-Claude Szurdak, in an early magazine photo shoot. © Eugene Cook

  1. From 1956 to 1958, Pépin was the personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.
  2. Pépin served as the Director of Research and Development for the Howard Johnson’s hotel and restaurant chain from 1960 to 1970, a position that taught him about mass production, marketing, food chemistry, and American food tastes.
  3. Julia Child dubbed Pépin “the best chef in America.”
  4. Pépin earned a Master’s degree in 18th-century in French literature from Columbia University.
  5. Pépin hosted two PBS cooking series with his daughter: Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine and Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Encore with Claudine.
  6. Pépin is an accomplished artist. Some of his artwork, including signed prints of his hand-drawn menus, is on sale on his website, with a portion of the proceeds supporting culinary education and sustainability.

Memorable Quote

“I tell a student that the most important class you can take is technique. A great chef is first a great technician. If you are a jeweler, or a surgeon or a cook, you have to know the trade in your hand. You have to learn the process. You learn it through endless repetition until it belongs to you.”

Notable Books

Jacques Pépin’s cookbooks at Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco. Credit: © Jennifer Huang

Jacques Pépin’s cookbooks at Omnivore Books on Food in San Francisco. Credit: © Jennifer Huang


La Technique and La Methôde, 1976 and 1979, respectively.
Landmark books on the fundamentals of culinary craft that were inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame.

Jacques Pépin Fast Food My Way, 2004.
The go-to for Banana Bourbon Coupe and other mouthwatering recipes.

Jacques Pépin Heart and Soul in the Kitchen, 2015.
This cookbook is the companion book to his final PBS series, Jacques Pépin Heart and Soul.

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, 2015.
Pépin’s journey from frightened apprentice to Emmy-winning superstar – plus his favorite recipes.

Win a Spatula Signed by Pépin!

Jacques Pepin spatula

Enter with THIRTEEN to win a signed Jacques Pepin spatula from his Sur la Table collection.

What better way to sense the guiding hand of a master chef in your kitchen than with a cooking utensil personally signed by Jacques Pépin?! Enter this THIRTEEN giveaway for a chance to win a personally signed spatula from Pépin’s Sur la Table collection.