Jacques Pépin Dishes On The Makings Of An Extraordinary Chef

One of the world’s top chefs is returning to Boston today.

Legendary chef Jacques Pépin will be in Boston today at 4 p.m. showing off his cooking techniques at The New England Center for Arts and Technology (NE-CAT). Following the cooking demonstration, the festivities will continue with a cocktail party and fundraiser. The event supports NE-CAT’s mission to serve resource-limited, chronically unemployed and underemployed adults and at-risk young adults in Boston.

Jacques PépinPhoto Credit: Jacques Pépin Foundation

The internationally recognized French culinary genius is best known to Bostonians for his Emmy and James Beard Foundation award-winning cooking program on PBS (Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home). Pépin was seen on the beloved show alongside longtime close friend, Julia Child.

Since then he has gone on to achieve 16 James Beard Foundation Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and authored 29 books. For the past 30 years, Pépin has taught in the Culinary Arts Program at Boston University and, since 1989, he has served as dean of special programs at the International Culinary Center in New York City.

We caught up earlier today with Pépin, who dished on the makings of an extraordinary chef, some of his favorite meals to prepare and his advice to rising chefs.

In your opinion, what is it that makes a chef go from ordinary to extraordinary?

Drink a lot of wine (laughs). Like anything else, practice and learning and be willing to work hard. I would suggest working with a great chef like Thomas Keller, learn all about food, do that for a couple of years and then do the same thing for another great chef and maybe a third time. Then you can filter through your own sense and cooking style.

What are some of your most favorite dishes to prepare?

Whatever is in the garden that day or whatever my mood is. It’s different when I have a hangover (laughs), which is different when I am in the mood for a winter soup or summer salad. It really just depends on my mood and the season. I have been making a lot of soups lately as I have gotten older. My wife calls it the “fridge soup” made with whatever ingredients we have.

Must haves in your kitchen?

Eggs, onions, garlic, leeks, potatoes, chicken and truffle.

What was the best advice you ever received?

Don’t burn the garlic!

If you could pass along to a rising chef something you learned over the years that no one ever shared with you, what would that advice be?

My advice to a young chef would be to be on time and be willing to work. The kitchen is a team and it is very important to work well with everyone in the kitchen. Be willing to partake in everything and put your ego away for a little while.

Jacques PépinPhoto Credit: Tom Hopkins