Jacques Pépin to Headline PBS American Masters Series

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by MICHELE REDMOND 

Julia Child, Albert Einstein, George Lucas, Bob Dylan and now, IACP founding member Jacques Pépin, headline a PBS American Masters series. Pepin’s edition premieres May 26th on local PBS stations and portrays his evolution from 13-year old apprentice to respected, influential chef turned popular TV cooking teacher, speaker, and writer.

Past IACP president Barbara Fenzl, close friend of Jacques Pépin, was interviewed for the documentary along with culinary professionals including José Andrés, Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio, and Marcus Samuelsson.

One of the original founders of IACP, Jacques was honored at the D.C. conference for his 80th birthday with over 100 cakes driven in or flown in including a cake the size of an oven. Barbara was interviewed during the conference for Jacques’ American Masters edition to provide a personal and professional perspective on his career. During her career, she’s worked with him in many professional culinary venues, and when he started as traveling cooking teacher, he made multiple visits to teach at her Les Gourmettes cooking school in Arizona.  

I met with Barbara recently and she shared how Jacques is a natural teacher who may have gravitated towards teaching even if a serious car accident had not ended his professional chef career. His evolution from high-end chef to teacher and author of nearly 30 cookbooks includes:

  • personal chef of three French heads of state including President Charles de Gaulle,
  • an offer to be the “first chef” of the white house under President John F. Kennedy, and
  • turning down the White House to learn more about and contribute to American cuisine for the Howard Johnson hotel chain as the Director of Research and New Development.

Jacques arrived an immigrant from France who embraced American culture and has influenced how we eat. Barbara knew him from his days of creating caramel cages to decorate dessert plates and saw his evolution to a food and culinary educator who made food and cooking approachable and “even when he cooked with tongue, he pulled people into the food” says Fenzl.

Don’t miss the Friday, May 26th preview of our esteemed culinary compatriot and model for creating good food and engaging Americans to cook. PBS summed Jacque’s attitude towards food and cooking well: “Jacque’s catchphrase of “happy cooking”: honesty of ingredients, simplicity of approach, and a joy for sharing good food with loved ones” resonates and can be promoted by anyone who truly loves food and how cooking can bring us all together as people and Americans.


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