Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Inside the Heart & Soul of Père Jacques

Here's Jacques (left) with the Beach
Blanket Babylon star who closed the show
in true San Francisco style.
Chef Jacques Pépin is a hero to countless food lovers and chefs around the world, not because of the number of Michelin-starred restaurants he owns (zero), or the amount he swears and postures on TV (zero), or the shock factor of his cuisine (zero). He's our spiritual father because his love for food and cooking is so incomparably pure and generous, and because his samurai master kitchen technique inspires us all  professional chefs and amateurs alike  to improve our skills. At nearly 80 years old, this guy can still cook the pants off the Michelin chef of your choice... though his modesty would never allow him to admit it.

I attended the KQED event honoring Jacques last night, and am so glad I did. Almost two hours of non-stop surprises and candid moments enabled Jacques' charm and humor to shine throughout, from his smooth deflection of difficult questions (Interviewer: "Are the French better at romance or cooking?" JP: "Well, I dunno, I'm great at both"), to his gluttonous attack on freshly-made fines herbes omelettes by Douglas Keane and Roland Passot (which were nearly buried under mounds of caviar and black truffles, respectively), to his absolutely captivating vocal performance of "Les Feuilles Mortes" with the live band.

The event really revealed Jacques as he is: a self-professed glutton, loyal friend, shockingly talented painter and singer, erudite French literature PhD, dedicated family man, and irrepressible jokester. As he's done for the last 40 years in his classes and TV shows, Jacques shared his immense knowledge and humor freely with the audience, without pretension, expectation or hubris. We ate it up and begged for more.

Chefs suffused with love after their presentations.
L to R: Narsai David, Loretta Keller (with salad bowl),
Mitch Rosenthal, Steven Rosenthal,
Duskie Estes, and Jan Birnbaum.
An avalanche of heartfelt video tributes from food world luminaries like Alice Waters, Daniel Boulud, Lidia Bastianich, Eric Ripert, Danny Meyer, Anthony Bourdain, Drew Nieporent, Chuck Williams, and many others piled onto the live thank you presentations by some of the Bay Area's own top chefs. This phenomenal outpouring of love and appreciation swept us all into a state of grace and tearful smiles.

Last night's event celebrated the launch of Jacques' new cookbook Heart & Soul, his new KQED cooking series of the same name (supposedly, his final TV series), and his upcoming 80th birthday in December. Do yourself a favor and watch the show (Saturday mornings at 10:30am on channel 9 in the San Francisco Bay Area), pick up a copy of the book, or preferably both. They offer a glimpse straight into the huge, warm heart of one of the food world's most deservedly beloved people... our collective Père Jacques.


  1. Lovely! Thanks for sharing. It was always a pleasure at the French Culinary Institute when chef Pepin was in the house.

    1. Thanks, Yukari! How wonderful that must have been to study with him. I'm a little (massively) jealous. :)