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Jacques Pépin

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Jacques Pépin
Pépin at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic 2006
Born (1935-12-18) 18 December 1935 (age 88)
EducationColumbia University (B.A., M.A.)
Gloria Evelyn Augier
(m. 1966; died 2020)
Culinary career
Cooking styleAmerican-French
Previous restaurant(s)
  • Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Le Pavillon, Howard Johnson's, La Potagerie
Television show(s)
  • The Complete Pépin (PBS; originally aired 1997; relaunched 2007)
    Fast Food My Way
    More Fast Food My Way
    Jacques Pepin: Heart & Soul (2015–2016)

Jacques Pépin (French pronunciation: [ʒak pepɛ̃]; born December 18, 1935)[1] is a French chef, author, culinary educator, television personality, and artist.[2] After having been the personal chef of French President Charles de Gaulle, he moved to the US in 1959 and after working in New York's top French restaurants, refused the same job with President John F. Kennedy in the White House and instead took a culinary development job with Howard Johnson's. During his career, he has served in numerous prestigious restaurants, first, in Paris, and then in America. He has appeared on American television and has written for The New York Times, Food & Wine and other publications. He has authored more than 30 cookbooks, some of which have become best sellers. Pépin was a longtime friend of the American chef Julia Child, and their 1999 PBS series Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home won a Daytime Emmy Award. He also holds a BA and a MA from Columbia University in French literature.

He has been honored with 24 James Beard Foundation Awards,[3] five honorary doctoral degrees, the American Public Television's lifetime achievement award, the Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2019[4] and the Légion d'honneur, France's highest order of merit, in 2004.[5]

Since 1989, Pépin has taught in the Culinary Arts Program at Boston University and served as dean of special programs at the International Culinary Center in New York City.[5] In 2016, with his daughter, Claudine Pépin and his son-in-law, Rollie Wesen, Pépin created the Jacques Pépin Foundation to support culinary education for adults with barriers to employment.[6] He has lived in Connecticut since 1975.

Early life and education[edit]

Pépin was born in 1935 in Bourg-en-Bresse, France.[1] He was the second of three sons born to Jeannette and Jean-Victor Pépin. After World War II, his parents opened a restaurant called Le Pélican, where Pépin worked as a child, and later became known for his love for food.[1]

At the age of thirteen, he started his apprenticeship at Le Grand Hôtel de l'Europe in Bourg-en-Bresse.

Pépin achieved his university education in his 30s, after his move to the United States in 1959. There he enrolled in English for foreign students, a GED equivalent, and eventually General Studies classes toward a Bachelor of Arts degree at Columbia University. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1970 from Columbia University's School of General Studies, and in 1972, his Master of Arts in French literature from the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.[7][8] He entered into a doctoral program at Columbia, but his proposed thesis on French food in literature was rejected for being too frivolous for serious academic pursuit.[9]

Early career[edit]

At age sixteen, Pépin went on to work in Paris, training under Lucien Diat at the Plaza Athénée. From 1956 to 1958, during his military service, he was recognized for his culinary training and skill and was ordered to work in the Office of the Treasury, where he met his long-time cooking partner, Jean-Claude Szurdak, and eventually became the personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.[7][10]

In 1959, Pépin went to the United States to work at the restaurant Le Pavillon. Soon after his arrival, The New York Times's food editor Craig Claiborne introduced him to James Beard and Helen McCully. McCully introduced him to Julia Child, who became a lifelong friend and collaborator. In 1961, after Pépin had declined an offer from John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy to serve as chef at the White House, Howard Johnson, a regular Le Pavillon customer, hired him to work alongside fellow Frenchman Pierre Franey to develop food lines for his chain of Howard Johnson's restaurants, where Pépin served as the director of research and development for a decade.

In 1970, Pépin opened a specialty soup restaurant and lunch counter on Manhattan's 5th Avenue called La Potagerie, and began to enjoy popular success with appearances on talk shows such as What's My Line? and To Tell the Truth.

His career as a restaurant chef ended abruptly with a near fatal car accident in 1974.[1]

Middle career[edit]

Beginning in the mid-1970s, after a car accident which damaged his left arm, Pépin reinvented himself as an educator, author and eventually a television personality. Pépin worked as a consultant for restaurateur Joe Baum on his Windows on the World project, and offered classes at small cooking schools and cookware shops around the United States. In 1976, Pépin authored his cookbook La Technique, followed by La Methode in 1979. The use of thousands of photographs, illustrating the techniques and methods required to achieve certain culinary results, provided a window into the art of cooking. The books are credited by chef Tom Colicchio and others as helping them to learn the craft of cooking.[11]

In 1982, along with Alain Sailhac and André Soltner, Pépin was invited by Dorothy Cann Hamilton to become one of the deans at the newly formed culinary school, the French Culinary Institute, in New York City, now known as the International Culinary Center (ICC). Also in 1982, he filmed his first television series, with PBS local station WJCT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida, and published a companion cookbook entitled Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pépin. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, Pépin was published as a columnist for The New York Times, and a guest author for Gourmet, Food & Wine and many others. He authored several more cookbooks, including The Art of Cooking, volumes 1 and 2, and The Short-Cut Cook.

In 1989, Pépin partnered with Julia Child and Rebecca Alssid to create a culinary certificate program within the Metropolitan College at Boston University (BU). This effort eventually led to the first, and still one of the few, Master's degrees in Gastronomy.[12] Pépin's 1991 television series Today’s Gourmet, filmed at KQED studios in San Francisco was created from recipes from several books, brought together in the companion cookbook Jacques Pépin's Table. In 1994 and 1996, Pepin and Julia Child appeared in 90 minute PBS specials, Cooking In Concert and More Cooking In Concert, filmed live before a Boston audience as part of the PBS annual fund drives for those years. In 1996, Pépin introduced his then 27-year-old daughter Claudine, in three television series and companion books: Cooking with Claudine, Encore with Claudine and Jacques Pépin Celebrates. The father to daughter relationship, combined with an instructor to culinary novice relationship, demonstrated Pépin's work as a chef and teacher. Each of the three series earned the pair James Beard Foundation Awards. In 1999, Pépin teamed up with Julia Child for the series and companion book Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home. The TV series, produced by Susie Heller, won a Daytime Emmy Award and a James Beard Foundation Award. In 2003, Pépin published his autobiography, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen.

Later career[edit]

In the 21st century, Pépin continues to cook, write, publish, film for television, paint and take on new projects. Throughout his career, he has toured and taught on cruise ships including the Queen Elizabeth 2, and the Crystal Cruises and Princess Cruises lines. In 2003, he was named the executive culinary director of Oceania Cruises, and "is credited with helping it achieve its reputation for culinary excellence and style".[13] Pépin continues to teach at the ICC and at BU, and offers book signings, culinary demonstrations and classes on Oceania cruises and at various locations across the US, several times per year.

Since his time as a student at Columbia University, Pépin has dabbled in and enjoyed drawing and painting. In recent years, he has committed more time to his art, and enjoyed some success with commercial sales on his website, Jacques Pépin Art, and juried shows.[14] In the first decade of the 2000s, Pépin published several more cookbooks including Fast Food My Way and More Fast Food My Way, which were paired with television series of the same name, produced by Tina Salter, and Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook, that significantly featured Pépin's art. In 2011, Pépin filmed the series Essential Pépin at KQED studios and published a companion cookbook with more than 700 recipes and a set of technique-oriented videos. In 2012, he published New Complete Techniques, which combined and updated his important earlier works La Technique and La Methode.

In 2015 Pépin, 79, recovered at his home in Connecticut after suffering a minor stroke. He canceled his appearance at the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Washington D.C., but otherwise insisted on returning to his normal schedule, according to the Associated Press. "Oh my god, he made soup this morning", Pépin's daughter Claudine told the Associated Press. "I will do my best to lighten the load, but he's not of the mind to cancel anything. Honestly, he wanted to go to IACP. He's like, 'I'm talking. I can walk. Let's go.'"[15]

In 2016, with his daughter Claudine Pépin and son-in-law Rollie Wesen, Jacques created his eponymous, non-profit, organization the Jacques Pépin Foundation (JPF). The mission of the foundation is to support organizations that provide culinary training to adults and youths with barriers to employment such as low-income, low-skills, homelessness, issues with substance abuse and previous incarceration. The JPF provides grants, independent research, source and curricular materials, equipment, direct teaching and video instruction to community-based culinary training programs around the USA.[16]

In 2017, Pépin published a cookbook with his granddaughter Shorey Wesen, entitled A Grandfather's Lessons. In the same year, Pépin received an honorary doctorate from the Columbia University School of General Studies. Pépin resided in Connecticut with his wife Gloria,[17] until her death in 2020.[18][19]


The success of Pépin's book La Technique, used as a textbook for teaching the fundamentals of French cuisine, prompted him to launch a televised version resulting in a 1997 PBS series, The Complete Pépin. Relaunched on PBS ten years after its initial run, the series included a new introduction by Pépin where he stressed that the secret to being a successful chef and not a mere line cook lies in knowing and using the proper technique.[20][21]

In 1999, Pépin co-starred in the PBS series Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home alongside Julia Child. The program was awarded a Daytime Emmy in 2001.[20]

His show Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way (based on his 2004 book of the same name) ran on PBS, and Jacques Pépin: More Fast Food My Way was broadcast on PBS' Create. In Essential Pépin (2011), Pépin brings modern touches to some of his favorite recipes from his career. In the 26-part public television series, Pépin demonstrates more than 125 dishes while the companion book, published by Houghton-Mifflin, contains more than 700 recipes. In this series, Pépin cooks with his daughter, Claudine, wife of chef Rolland Wesen. All of his programs have been produced by KQED-TV in San Francisco.

Pépin was a guest judge on season five of the Bravo television show Top Chef, which aired in 2008. He stated that his ideal "final meal" would be roast squab and fresh peas.

Pépin was a guest on the television show Wahlburgers episode called "Pauli Day". Donnie Wahlberg arranged for Pépin to surprise his brother Paul Wahlberg for his birthday.

In 2015, his television series Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul began airing. According to its producer, Tina Salter KQED-TV, the series would be his "most personal and special, revealing a man – a legend – whose lust for life, love of food, family and friends continues". The series premiered on KQED on September 12, 2015, and nationally on September 19.

A documentary about his life, Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft,[22] aired as part of the PBS series American Masters, premiering May 26, 2017.[23] The film, narrated by Stanley Tucci, was produced and directed by Peter L. Stein, who had produced several of Pépin's early television cooking series at KQED in the 1990s.[24]

In 2020, Jacques and KQED began filming "Cooking at Home" for release on YouTube.

Awards and honors[edit]

In addition to the Daytime Emmy Award won with Julia Child, Pépin has received three of the French government's honors: He is a Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1997) and a Chevalier de L'Ordre du Mérite Agricole (1992). In October 2004, he received France's Légion d'honneur.[25] He has also received 24 James Beard Foundation awards.[26]

On May 13, 2010, Pépin, along with other chefs from the French Culinary Institute (known as the International Culinary Center), Alain Sailhac, Jacques Torres and André Soltner, prepared a $30,000-per-couple dinner for President Barack Obama's fund-raiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at Manhattan's St. Regis Hotel.[27]

On February 5, 2010, during the christening of MS Marina, Pépin was named an honorary commodore of the Oceania Cruises fleet,[28] for which he serves as executive culinary director.[29]

He received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Boston University on May 22, 2011. In October 2011, Pépin was the recipient of the first-ever tribute dinner at the New York Food and Wine Festival. Cooking for Pépin at the event, hosted by Martha Stewart, were French chefs Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, and others. In 2015, Pépin was the first recipient of the Julia Child Award from The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.[30][31]

In May 2017, Pépin received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Columbia University.[32]

Personal life[edit]

Pépin married Gloria Evelyn Augier in 1966, whom he met while working as a ski instructor.[33] She died on December 5, 2020.[18] They had one daughter, Claudine (b. 1968).[34]

In 1974, Pépin was badly injured while driving on a country road when a deer leapt in front of his car and he swerved to avoid it. His car hit the deer, veered off the road, struck a telephone pole, then crashed into a ravine and landed upside-down and on fire. He fractured 14 bones in his back, pelvis, and arms. His left arm was so badly injured that physicians initially wanted to amputate it. Pépin recovered, but his left shoulder remained limited in mobility and his left arm is several inches shorter than his right.[35][36] In his autobiography, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen,[1] Pépin notes that his accident caused him to realize that he would not be able to continue working full-time as a chef/restaurateur; this realization motivated his reinvention as a teacher and author.


  • The Other Half of the Egg (1967) (with Helen McCully and William North Jayme)
  • Jacques Pépin: A French Chef Cooks at Home (1975)
  • La Technique (1976)
  • La Methode (1979)
  • Everyday Cooking With Jacques Pépin (1982)
  • The Art of Cooking, Vol 1 (1987)
  • The Art of Cooking, Vol 2 (1988)
  • Short-Cut Cook (1990)
  • Today's Gourmet (1991)
  • Cuisine Economique (1992)
  • Today's Gourmet II (1992)
  • Jacques Pépin's Simple and Healthy Cooking (1994)
  • Jacques Pépin's Table (1995)
  • Jacques Pépin's Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine (1996)
  • The Complete Pépin (1997)
  • The French Culinary Institute's Salute to Healthy Cooking (1998) (with Alain Sailhac, Andre Soltner, and Jacques Torres)
  • Jacques Pépin's Kitchen: Encore with Claudine (1998)
  • Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home (1999) (with Julia Child and David Nussbaum)
  • Jacques Pépin Celebrates (2001)
  • The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen (2003)
  • Fast Food My Way (2004)
  • Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook (with Tom Hopkins, 2007)
  • More Fast Food My Way (2008)
  • Essential Pépin (2011)
  • New Complete Techniques (2012)
  • Jacques Pépin: Heart & Soul in the Kitchen (2015)
  • A Grandfather's Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey (2017)
  • Poulets & Légumes (2018)
  • Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple (2020)
  • Jacques Pépin Art of the Chicken: A Master Chef's Paintings, Stories, and Recipes of the Humble Bird (2022)


  1. ^ a b c d e Pépin, Jacques (2003). The apprentice : my life in the kitchen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 4, 23–43. ISBN 0618197370.
  2. ^ "Biography of Jacques Pépin - American Masters - PBS". PBS. April 7, 2017. Archived from the original on September 3, 2018. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
  3. ^ "Awards Search | James Beard Foundation". www.jamesbeard.org. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  4. ^ "Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Winners Announced – The Emmys". theemmys.tv. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Jacques Pépin | Jacques Pépin Foundation". Jacques Pépin Foundation. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  6. ^ "The Jacques Pépin Foundation". Jacques Pépin Foundation. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "New York City Wine & Food Festival". The Food Network. October 2, 2011. Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  8. ^ Pépin, Jacques (April 28, 2005). "Howard Johnson's, Adieu". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "The Art of the Meal". Columbia Magazine. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  10. ^ Orvedahl, Reid (November 24, 2019). "Jacques Pépin, the chefs' chef". CBS News. Archived from the original on December 3, 2019. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  11. ^ Gordinier, Jeff (October 18, 2011). "Jacques Pépin Demonstrates Cooking Techniques". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  12. ^ "Graduate Programs". FoodAnthropology. October 19, 2011. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  13. ^ Levine, Irene S. "Artistry From Ship To Shore: Talking To Chef Jacques Pepin". Forbes. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  14. ^ "Guilford Art Center". June 14, 2019. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  15. ^ J. M. Hirsch (March 25, 2015). "Television chef Jacques Pepin recovering from minor stroke". AP News.
  16. ^ "The Jacques Pépin Foundation". Jacques Pépin Foundation. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  17. ^ Maker, Elizabeth (June 1, 2003). "Suddenly, Balls in Every Court". The New York Times. Retrieved January 27, 2010.
  18. ^ a b Pasquini, Maria (December 20, 2020). "Chef Jacques Pépin's Wife of 54 Years Gloria Dies: 'We Are Overcome with Grief'". Food. People. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  19. ^ Braine, Theresa (December 7, 2020). "Renowned chef Jacques Pepin mourns death of wife of 54 years, Gloria". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  20. ^ a b "About Jacques". Essential Pepin. KQED.
  21. ^ "Complete Pepin, The | KQED". KQED Public Media. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  22. ^ "Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft - About the Film - American Masters - PBS". PBS. April 28, 2017.
  23. ^ "American Masters – Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft - Press Release - Pressroom - THIRTEEN".
  24. ^ "Filmmaker Interview: Peter L. Stein on Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft". Vimeo.
  25. ^ "Jacques Pepin Chef and Cooking Show Host". PBS Food. October 17, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
  26. ^ "Awards Search". James Beard Foundation. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
  27. ^ McAuliff, Michael; Saltonstall, David (May 13, 2010). "After beating up Wall Street 'fat cats,' President Obama ready to take their money in NY fund-raiser". Daily News. New York. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  28. ^ "Oceania Cruises new ship Marina Christened in Miami". PRLog. February 8, 2011. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  29. ^ "The Finest Cuisine at Sea, Master Chef Jacques Pépin". Oceania Cruises.
  30. ^ Chris. "Recipients". The Julia Child Award. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  31. ^ Krystal, Becky (August 13, 2015). "Jacques Pépin named first recipient of the Julia Child Award". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  32. ^ "Columbia's 2017 Commencement Week Events Take Place from May 13 to 18". Columbia News, Office of Communication and Public Affairs (Press release). May 9, 2017. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  33. ^ "How Jacques Pépin met his wife, Gloria". PBS. n.d. Retrieved December 21, 2021.
  34. ^ Stein, Joshua David (September 21, 2017). "The World's Greatest Chef on the Art of Cooking With Kids". Fatherly. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  35. ^ Lang, Joel (May 8, 2016). "At 80, master chef Jacques Pepin still has a lot on his plate". Connecticut Post. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  36. ^ Mansfield, Stephanie (October 6, 1977). "The Sensual Chef". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 18, 2020.

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