A Grandfather's Lessons | Jacques Pépin
A Grandfather's Lessons
In the Kitchen with Shorey
By Jacques Pépin
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book Podcast with me, Suzy Chase.
Jacques Pépin: My name is Jacques Pépin and my latest book is, "A Grandfather's Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey." Shorey, of course, is my granddaughter.
Suzy Chase: It is indeed an honor to have you on my podcast for a second time. Welcome back.
Jacques Pépin: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Suzy Chase: So this cookbook concept is different from most of your other cookbooks. How did the idea come about?
Jacques Pépin: Well, it is different, but usually ... I have 30 cookbook and very often it's because I do a specific show and with a specific theme, you know? I try to put whatever I know, in the world of cooking, into a ... I had a column in the New York Times for ten years in the 80's which was Cuisine Economic: how to cook for ten people for a minimum amount of money. Then I did a book for the Cleveland Clinic ... So all of those are really kind of very specialized and where I put my knowledge into a specific area of food. They're ... I wanted in a sense to do something similar but with my granddaughter so I didn't want it to be too completely ... Too difficult certainly. I mean technically she doesn't ... I mean I'm not going to make her bone out a chicken or doing something complicated and so forth. I wanted to ... I mean from age like 6 she's been occasionally with me, she's been appearing on my show, so ... She kind of find comfortable and it is a kind of mean of communication for me because if you have to speak with a child of 12 years old or 15 years old the language sometime at my age it's a different type of language. We're interested in very different things, you know?
But at least in cooking then there is a subject there that we can come together and discuss and that must be the reason I wanted to do that, you know? To get closer to her and make her feel comfortable with me and me with her. And also give her a little bit of a legacy, you know? I mean, what she would hopefully remember most of those recipe that she's done she like them, sometime she love them so that's all very good I think.
Suzy Chase: Speaking of age, does Shorey and her interest in cooking remind you of yourself at that age?
Jacques Pépin: Not really because for her she has more of a choice. I mean her life is much larger than I have. I mean, she has television, she has her iPhone, she has so many things going on. I mean, school and gymnastics and so forth. For me, I was in that world when I was 6 years old. There was no other world. I didn't know any other world. My mother had the restaurant so I worked there with my brother so it was quite a ... We had kind of blinders on our eyes and I didn't even know there was another world somewhere else. For us, it was something that was necessary, I mean, to come and help and it was a place to come back after school because there was no other place to go anyways. SO the kitchen was a place where you felt home and comfortable so ... It's different.
Suzy Chase: How did you choose these diverse recipes? Like you have curly dogs and then you also have lemon sole with butter and lemon.
Jacques Pépin: Yes those are ... Some are more fun, if you want, than others. I think of the curly dog because when I was at Howard Johnson's for 10 years during 1960-1970 I was director of research and we used to produce like, I don't know, several tons of hot dogs a day in the main commissary in Queens Village in New York. So I would fool around with those ... put hot dog in the black bean soup or in lentil soup and do a stew with the sauerkraut and hot dog, do another kind of saute with potato and carrot and hot dog and somehow cutting the hot dog I come to cut it a certain way and when it was in the skillet they start curling up so ...
You know, that's an example of that type of book. I wanted to do some recipe like that, just fun to do for her and good to eat but the level of fun was more important maybe, and other like the lemon sole, as an example, would be how to show her how to cook a fish. Really a minimal amount of time in and do it in the simplest way just with some butter and some lemon juice on top, you know? And I think she appreciate that.
Suzy Chase: What's your advice for developing a child's palate?
Jacques Pépin: Well she has to be involved in the kitchen. Like Claudine when she was small I could hold her in my arms, she was maybe a year and a half two years whatever, and she would stir the pot.
I'd say "Okay you mix it." So she would have the spoons stirring so she quote “made it” so she was going to taste it because she made it with her dad so you know ... Yeah that type of thing that's certainly as I said the kitchen is a comfortable place for me for a child coming back from school to do your homework. In that kitchen is a smell of that kitchen, there is a noise of the instrument, you know equipment, there is the voice of your mother, your father, and this will kind of stay with you the rest of your life so you have to get the kid involved this way.
Suzy Chase: Talk a little bit about the value of family eating together and food memories.
Jacques Pépin: Yeah certainly the cooking part of it is important, but the more important part of it is the sitting down together and eating. I mean, in a sense that part of it you know, sharing the food together is kind of the glue for us who keep the family together to a certain extent, you know. When Claudine was small, we always had dinner together. I mean, we still do but ... So spanning 45 minute or an hour an night I made dinner together was habit that we had and never changed that's what she does with Shorey as well. Not necessarily pleasant time[chuckles], you know, when you have to recap what happened during the day and in school and all that but unless you do that, you know to a certain extent, you never had any communication with the kid, you know? You may seem to have communication, the kid comes in, I see family, they grab something to eat, the mother grabs something to eat in their corner, they look at their telephone, the father goes his way eating somewhere else or in the living room ... They think they are close together but they are not. They never speak to together.
So at least at that table was, as I said, the place where every day we'd spend an hour a day together at least.
Suzy Chase: I read in an old interview with Claudine that she doesn't mind if Shorey leaves two bites on the plate and leaving any food on the plate makes you crazy. What's the rule in your house? [Jacques chuckling]
Jacques Pépin: Yes. It does. So I mean I cannot ... But, you know, I'm very miserly cook and probably because of my mother and being raised in France during the second world war and so forth. So I hate with passion to waste food in any way and used to have arguments with my wife this way. So yes I would never throw a piece of bread so, you know, hundreds of time I don't understand Claudine's philosophy there. I say, you know, give her half a portion then let her eat what's on the plate. No no she like it this way so you know? It's her child she does the way she wants but I still don't agree with it, [chuckles]
Suzy Chase: [chuckles] Conformity. A word that most chefs live by. Like your days spent at La Pavillon. Do you encourage Shorey to think outside the box or should she follow the exact recipe?
Jacques Pépin: When I was at ... working in Paris and all that as you say or working in New York at La Pavillon when I came here ... Yes you would work in that place because it was an extraordinary place and you wanted to learn the habit of the house. It wasn't you going there to challenge the thing it was you going to learn so you conform and there was much less pressure for the chef to conform. There was not ... But now in our new world of chef ... No no. They want to create stuff, they want to make sure they know that I signed that dish, that they know that I'm the one who made it and all that so it's a different type of thing. Creativity is good without any question in the kitchen but creativity by itself is not enough. It has to be backed by some basic knowledge, you know? By certain structure so when you know how to do things and repeat and repeat and know them how to do proper that's when you start creating some stuff out of it. But not at the beginning.
However, that being said you know, once she's in the kitchen yes of course I say "Well don't you present it this way?" Or do this or that. I say "What do you have an idea about?" And she'll have an idea about either presenting it or cooking it longer or not as long or whatever and its fine, you know? But it is not really creating ingredient that no one has ever seen and you combine them together. Its more a creativity in depth, you know? Where you are one dish and you do it better and better and better. Deeper and deeper and that's a different type of creativity.
Suzy Chase: I heard Anthony Bourdain say one time that if his daughter came to him and said she wanted to be a chef at first he'd be horrified and then proud. Would you want Shorey to be a chef when she grows up?
Jacques Pépin: Well, you know, the success of life is complicated and its easy in sense, you know? If you can make a living out of something you love to then, as the saying goes, you never have to go to work, you know? SO regardless, I doubt that she will be a chef but if its what makes her happy and she loves to do it absolutely, yes. Why not?
Suzy Chase: Fill us in your partnership with Sur La Table.
Jacques Pépin: You know, I have never endorsed any product in my life and there ... One time I went there in Seattle I think in the main officeI went to a book signing too and everyone had an apron with one of my chicken on it. So they took one of the drawings of my chicken and did that apron and I think it was fun. And they said "Would you be interested in doing ... So I drew and Idid many chickens so they had that whole bunch and they start doing things in Italy as well as in France I believe and from plate to platter to apron to kitchen mitt and towel and all kind of stuff. There's a beautiful collection I think ... A great job.
So we end up doing a little book with them on chicken and vegetable. And then that kind of mushroom I had that other project in my mind. I wanted to do some show, some little television show with Shorey to show her how to do it. I didn't even want to do a book and then Rux Martin from Houghton and Mifflin with my editor she said "What do you mean you going to do thing with your granddaughter you don't want to do a book with it?" I said "Well, I didn't think but she said no I want the book." So we did the book and we actually taped 36 or 38 show out the like 70 recipe that we have in that book. 70 or 80. And those were sponsored by Sur La Table we served them in the back house here at my house in Connecticut so when you have the book which is coming out next week then certain recipes will say "If you want to know how its done go to Sur La Table" we give you a link and there is those shows that are very good for people like this. So its more fun.
Suzy Chase: Last Monday evening, my 11 year old little boy and I made your recipes for Chicken Supremes in Persillade on page 87 and Bow Tie Pasta in Garden Vegetable Sauce on page 110.
Jacques Pépin: Well I hope you were happy with it.
Suzy Chase: Yeah.
So the chicken. Can you describe your technique for sauteeing chicken breast for this recipe because my chicken didn't seem to brown as well as I wanted it to.
Jacques Pépin: Well in the chicken like that you don't really want to brown it much to start with. Its totally different if you do chicken with or without the skin. I have another recipe somewhere in that book of chicken and where I do the leg of chicken. I mean the thigh of chicken. SO I put them with the skin on, skin side down, in a nonstick pan and I cook them for 25-30 minutes without turning the chicken just with a lid on top so there is steam created so the top cooks and the skin becomes very crispy and that's basically how that works. But in the case where you remove the skin, like in that recipe, then you don't really want to brown that flesh too much because then it toughen the top and doesn't really achieve anything. So a light browning like I have there is perfectly fine. It should leave the breast pretty moist and nice and enjoyable to eat.
Suzy Chase: Yes it was really, really moist. And that's one of my problems with chicken breast is it comes out dry sometimes but this was so moist.
Jacques Pépin: Yes because I didn't cook it too long and, as I said, I didn't cook it too brown it hard and create a crust on top. I don't do that unless I have the skin.
Suzy Chase: I would love to hear how you had the bow tie pasta dish in the 70’s at Craig Claiborne's house. Was the first time you have ever had that type of pasta dish?
Jacques Pépin: Yes absolutely. That pasta dish was created by Ed Giobbi. Ed Giobbi is a professional painter in his 90s now but is still living. But he also is an author of cookbooks. He's done thrre, four, five cookbooks and he a good friend of mine and we were and Craig's together and that's how we thought of illustrating menus and so forth. And one time, Ed was there and he said "Oh I remember a recipe my grandmother used to do when the spring was coming." You know. So pasta la primavera is the first vegetable of the spring. And [inaudible 00:16:12] was kind of a tomato salad there wasn't that menu vegetable, you know tomato some onion too ... That you warm up a little bit and mix it with the pasta. So that was the idea that we started doing it and of course now we put much more vegetable in it but we still enjoy it. It's something that we do several times during the summer and depending what's in the garden [chuckles] like now.
Suzy Chase: In August, the cookbook and literary world lost a legendary editor Judith Jones. Would you like to share a brief memory of Judith?
Jacques Pépin: Well I worked with Judith in the Art of Cooking, which is probably my opus magnum, you know? The best book that I did, maybe one of the one who sold the least [chuckles] but it took me 5 years and I did 34,000 picture and there is two volumes with about 15,000 picture each of those that I did in the mid 80s. So I work with Judith on that and that was certainly that was fun and then I did a book called Jacques Pepin Celebrates again she was involved. And certainly the book with Julia and when we were taping the show with Julia Child in her house in Cambridge and Judith was there with her little dog I forget his name. She stay there doing all of the taping and all that to see what was going on and to advise us and to work with us so ... Yeah I did work with her quite a lot.
Suzy Chase: As Shorey's dad once said "No one will ever be like you again. No one will have the force that you had on the world of culinary arts." You are truly one in a million. A master.
Thank you so much for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Jacques Pépin: Thank you. Thank you so much and my god what a statement!
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