Homemade Podcast Episode 25: Jacques and Claudine Pépin on Cooking Across Four Generations
For Jacques Pépin, home was a restaurant. The French culinary legend's mother owned a restaurant, as did some 10 to 12 of his aunts and female cousins. In 1949, 13-year-old Jacques left school to enter the business, too, moving to Lyon, France, to work as an apprentice. And though he later moved to Paris and the United States, he never left behind the simple, straightforward cooking he first learned at home, from his mother.
Of course, Jacques' daughter, Claudine Pépin, learned about cooking at home long before he taught her techniques on the PBS series "Cooking With Claudine." As a small child, Claudine shadowed her father in their Connecticut kitchen and her grandmother on vacations in France. She still considers grandmother's no-fuss meals some of the best she's ever eaten. No doubt, Claudine’s daughter, Shorey, will think of her grandfather's cooking the same way.
Jacques and Claudine join host Martie Duncan to share these stories and more, including their memories of Julia Child. Their conversation also covers simple "fridge soup," the best dishes for beginner cooks to master, and the secrets to happier cooking. Download it for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts beginning December 2.
Note: Jacques and Claudine spoke to Martie in October of 2020. On December 5th, the Saturday after this episode aired, Jacques’ wife, Gloria, died. She was 83. "We are overcome with grief, but Gloria was a fighter: a strong, resilient, 'spill-no-tears' woman. She would no doubt urge us to get on with living our lives and continue to do the work we were meant to do," read a statement on the chef's Facebook. Our condolences go out to the Pépins.
About Jacques Pépin
Chef Jacques Pépin began his career in France, serving as the personal chef of three French heads of state before moving to the United States in 1959. Jacques worked in restaurants until the mid-1970s when he released his first cookbook, La Technique. In 1982, he taped his first PBS series, "Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pépin" and released a cookbook of the same name.
Jacques continued to film television series through the 1990s, publishing companion cookbooks like Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home. His last PBS series, Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in The Kitchen, aired in 2015. Jacques, however, hasn’t quit. He continues to release cookbooks. His most recent include A Grandfather's Lessons, Jacques Pépin New Complete Techniques, and Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple.
About Claudine Pépin
Claudine Pépin studied political science and international relations at Boston University. With restaurants in her blood, however, Claudine found jobs in wine and food. When Jacques Pépin asked his only daughter to appear with him on a PBS series, she agreed. "Cooking with Claudine" marked her television debut and the first time her work intersected with her father's. The two went on to film "Encore with Claudine" and "Jacques Pépin Celebrates." All three series won James Beard Foundation Awards. Claudine also appeared on "Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in The Kitchen" in 2015. That same year, she published a cookbook, Let's Cook French, A Family Cookbook, complete with illustrations from Jacques and her daughter, Shorey. Claudine and her husband, Chef Rollie Wesen, lead the Jacques Pépin Foundation. They live in Rhode Island.
MARTIE DUNCAN: Welcome to Homemade from Allrecipes. I'm Martie Duncan. One of the reasons for this show is to inspire us all to cook more and to give you the confidence to try something new in your kitchens. One of my guests today has been inspiring us to cook for decades.
From his popular "Julia and Jacques" television series with Julia Child to his cookbooks and these days his video series on social media, Jacques Pepin — the legend — continues to inspire and teach generations of home cooks. And by his side, as she has been for a very long time, is his daughter, Claudine, also a cookbook author and television star.
Chef Pépin has a very timely new cookbook called Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple that's on the New York Times bestseller list. I'm so excited to welcome him and Claudine to Homemade.
JACQUES PÉPIN: Thank you.
CLAUDINE PÉPIN: Thank you very much for having us.
MARTIE: I'm such a big fan, and I have been for a long, long time. I know you do not need an introduction. You are the GOAT, the greatest of all time. So let's just run a few accolades here. Chef, professor, author, TV pioneer, artist, Emmy winner. You've got the Legion of Honor award. You have a lifetime achievement award, like 24 Beard Foundation awards. But I think most of all, most of us know you as the guy who comes on our TV and teaches us French cooking and lovely recipes and easy techniques. So, from all your fans all over the world, thank you for that. You've helped us be better cooks.
JACQUES: Thank you. Thank you very much.
MARTIE: And Claudine, we've watched you grow up. Before we really dig in to the new book, I want to talk to you a little bit about your foundation because I know that's super important to you. And so, Chef, you and Claudine and your son-in-law have started the Jacques Pépin Foundation. Can you tell me a little bit about what your mission is?
JACQUES: Well, I probably will let Claudine explain to you, because I'm there cooking. And, you know, I've done 13 series of 26 show, so I have so many books and tapes with technique on how to peel asparagus or bone out a chicken that this is what Roland, my son-in-law, and Claudine decided to take and create the foundation, which Claudine will tell you exactly what the foundation is all about. Go ahead, Claudine.
CLAUDINE: So, a few years ago, my husband and I started a foundation in my father's name so that we could help existing community kitchens teach people culinary and life skills in order for them to get jobs. It's pretty simple. We didn't think that it would be a really smart thing to say, "Oh, you know, we're the Jacques Pépin Foundation. Instead of going to your local community kitchen, come see us." I think that that's kind of rude, because if somebody takes the time and has the knowledge to create a community kitchen in their city, town, neighborhood, they know with that township needs much more than we ever do.
So what we do is we do fundraising and we provide grants and equipment because every kitchen is different. Every community kitchen teaches a different group of people. Some people are formerly incarcerated. Some are mostly women. I mean, it really depends on the area. There was one kitchen that was really well equipped, but the majority of their students were homeless. And the problem was, these wonderful people couldn't clean their uniforms and their clothes to come to class.
CLAUDINE: So all they wanted was a commercial washer and dryer, which my husband called and got them a commercial washer and dryer. Because that's what they need. So it's really specific to whatever organization we're trying to help and we're working with.
Now during this time, we've pivoted a little bit in our fundraising efforts to do more things online, and we have been able to successfully use my father's artwork. We made posters. And, you know, we're just trying to do everything we can so that we can continue the mission. And we've still granted almost $75,000 this year. So I'm very proud of that.
MARTIE: I think that's a wonderful mission. And I know your dad is very proud of you. And I have to say, I love the fact that you can get the artwork because I'm a big fan of your artwork, Chef.
JACQUES: Oh, thank you.
CLAUDINE: Well, the actual artwork is the JacquesPepinArt.com.
CLAUDINE: So that's a separate thing, and that's beautiful works, and there's giclées and it's really high-quality reproduction, and they're numbered and signed and so on. What we did for the foundation is quite different.
CLAUDINE: Posters, but they're really nice posters.
MARTIE: Maybe not everybody can do a signed print but can contribute enough to get a beautiful poster. Chef, that brings me to a question about the art while we're on this subject. Has this been something you've been doing all along? I remember that I saw an episode of something where I saw these books that you've been keeping for decades with your drawings and menus and guest lists.
JACQUES: Yes. I mean, we have been very married 54 years and from the beginning of our marriage, we decided at some point we had a house, upstate New York, the Catskills, when people came to record the menu, what we ate and all that. And I started doing illustration art, very often chicken, very often flowers, and so forth.
Claudine can tell you that a few weeks ago, she came to the house and wanted to know what she got on the second or third birthday. So she looked at that. We have 12 books like this over 50 years, so this is our whole life in there. I mean, from my mother to my brother to many, many people who are gone, it's a great memory to do in those menus. Because of that, I decided to draw a book of menu, which is being sold by Houghton Mifflin also. I did about 100 menu drawing for people to buy, for people to write their old menu into the drawing.
So we've always done that and many, many years ago, I think in the in the mid '60s, I remember taking a class at Columbia University. I was going at the time in sculpture and drawing. And I think that's about the only class I ever took. But eventually we all moved. We decided to take a house over the weekend, a whole bunch of friends in Woodstock, New York. And it's an artist colony. So, we all started redoing old furniture and painting and drawing and doing all that type of stuff. And since then, I've always worked on this. And in fact, we have a show coming up in March or April in Stanford, Connecticut at the museum there.
MARTIE: Oh, wonderful. I want to go back to your earliest roots and talk a little bit about your mom and where you're from in France and the fact that you did your very first apprenticeship when you were 13 years old.
JACQUE: Uh-huh. Well, actually, I left home when I was 13 and that was way before you were born, in 1949. So I left home, but home was actually a restaurant. My mother, Adeline, restaurant. Actually, the family in France, Claudine can tell you, I can count 10 to 12 restaurants owned by my cousins, my aunts, mother, all women. I was the first male to go into that business. It's all woman who runs the type of good restaurant and the type of food that often American do not associate with French cooking.
Because often, in America, French cooking is seen through the eye of the Michelin Guide restaurant, so the great chefs of France. But remember, there is only 20 or 22 three-star restaurant in France, and there is 160,000 restaurants in France. Even in France, many people in my family have never eaten in a three-star restaurant. So very often people don't realize that the type of cooking that people eat normally is similar to what I did in that book or what my mother used to do — very simple, straightforward cooking. And this is where I started early in Lyon, and eventually I moved to Paris, and eventually moved to America.
MARTIE: Yes, you came to America in 1959, I think.
JACQUES: Right. That's it. Yeah. You've done your homework.
MARTIE: I did do my homework. But I didn't have to do a lot of homework because I've followed you — I can't even remember when I started. Claudine, do you remember your grandmother? Do you remember cooking with your grandmother?
CLAUDINE: Oh, my gosh. Absolutely. Starting at the age of, I don't know, three or four, I basically would summer in France with my grandmother. And we would do stuff together. We'd go to the market together. We would cook together. We would do the dishes together. We would do everything together. She had this really cool garden. So you'd walk out the back door and there was a ground level patio and you'd walk upstairs and there were two sides to the garden and then a really pretty lawn and stuff. And it was really fun.
And she would have a garden up here. And if it was the right time of year, we would go and dig potatoes and she would just like rub the skin off and put it in a skillet with butter, and I promise you, you have never had anything better in your whole life. Just right out of the garden, little potato that's this big. Sautéed just right butter. And, ugh, it was so good. And a steak, like a super, super thin steak. And my grandmother liked her steak rare, but like rare like you might still need a fork to catch the steak because it was still moving.
JACQUES: So we would have a super rare steak and these potatoes and a green salad. And it was just — it's still like one of the best meals ever.
MARTIE: And now, Chef, you do the same thing with Shorey, your granddaughter. You take her to your garden, you cook with her. You have her in your kitchen.
JACQUES: Yes. I mean, certainly when she was small, but I did something with Claudine when she was a couple of years old. I hold her in my arm and she stirred the pot. After a while she stirred the pot, she could made it. So she was going to eat it. So you have to get the kid involved. So once Shorey was small, I had that little stool next to me at the counter in the kitchen. Not now, because now she is taller than me.
But at that time, she stood there and I said, "OK, give me a spoon. OK, give me that. Help me wash the salad. OK." Take her out to the garden. I say, "Get me some parsley. No, that's chive. Taste it. No, that's parsley. That's chive. That's tarragon." And then take her to the market. And in the market they get me some pear. "Make sure they are ripe. Did you smell them? You think they ripe? Those tomatoes, you think they are ripe?" Come back to the house, then she helped me in the kitchen.
So you know that create a background against which we start talking not only about the food, but then, of course, when we enjoy the food sitting down together and that create a conversation. Because very often, what do you talk to a teenager who has, you know, an iPhone in their hand and so forth. For us, cooking and the kitchen itself has been a canvas unto which we can develop conversation and talk about — so the structure of the family is a very, very important for us. and this is done very often in the context of cooking the kitchen and so forth.
MARTIE: You know, I garden also and my father and my mom did. And I always feel like kids were more likely to eat the food if they had a hand in either growing it or cooking it.
JACQUES: Yes. You know, I have given the classes in part of the country where the kids think that a chicken is rectangular with plastic on top. It doesn't have any feet, doesn't have any head or anything like that. So, you know, it's good to go back a bit to mother nature. And I remember doing that in Hunter when we were there with the—Do you remember that, Claudine? I think it was in your class. It was in primary school.
CLAUDINE: Yeah, I remember my dad made mayonnaise. And I remember like the kitchen was, like, this tall. Because I was a little kid. And my dad said, "Where does mayonnaise come from?" And this one little kids said, "A jar."
CLAUDINE: So he made mayonnaise for the kids to taste. And he made some other stuff. I don't remember the other things, but I distinctly remember the mayonnaise. And he always make crepes when I was little. Like when he was home, because he traveled a lot. But when he was home — never very early, we're not very early morning people — but, you know, like ten, eleven for breakfast he would make crepes and that was like a big special thing. And then when Shorey would come over and then he would always crepes. In fact, he fed her first solid food. It was a baked apple. He baked the apple and then it was everywhere except for in her mouth. But, you know, that was her first solid food.
JACQUES: I think I remember in that class, too, I did a cake and I filled up a bag with the pastry cream.
CLAUDINE: Oh, yes.
JACQUES: Buttercream, whatever. And they all come in a row, one after the other...
CLAUDINE: Yeah, like little birds with our mouths open to get, like, a mouth full of pastry cream.
MARTIE: Aww, that's wonderful memory.
Coming up after the break, we talk about soup and the unexpected ingredient you can use to thicken it, so stay tuned.
Welcome back to Homemade. I'm Martie Duncan. My guests today are Jacques and Claudine Pépin.
You know, back to the point from earlier where we were talking a little bit about your mom and the roots of your type of cooking. And it's very rustic and very basic. The ingredients shine. And you have some fairly simple techniques. When you were talking about the potatoes earlier, is that the persillade? Or how do you say it?
JACQUES: Right. Right.
MARTIE: Is it that?
JACQUES: Yeah, right.
MARTIE: Can you walk us through that recipe? I know that that's something that everybody can do quite easily at home.
JACQUES: Well, I can walk you through it if you tell me the page, otherwise I'll do it this way, but it will not be the same thing. I never remember what I do.
MARTIE: That's OK!
JACQUES: I think in the book I did it actually with cooked potato.
MARTIE: Yeah, you did. Yes.
JACQUES: Cut into thick slices. Thick slice like that. And browned in butter and oil on each sidein a heavy skillet. And then you finish it with a persillade. Persillade, in French, persil is parsley. And ail is garlic. So persillade is a mixture of parsley and garlic. And this is basically the signature of home cooking, the persillade.
My mother would do tomato, put persillade on top. Potato, persillade on top. A piece of fish, persillade on top. A steak, persillade on top. So, yeah. People look at me often as the quintessential French chefs. After over half a century in America, I'm probably the quintessential American chef. Oh, you know my wife, born in New York from a Puerto Rican mother, a Cuban father. So you may see a black bean soup with banana and cilantro on top. Or a southern fried chicken or I lobster roll from Connecticut. So...
JACQUES: I don't really try or not try to be French on not, but I think that the food we have in there kind of reflect the type of thing that we eat at home, which is relatively very simple.
MARTIE: Yes. It seems like during this time, you've spent a lot of time cooking at home for your wife, for yourself, the family, and keeping the recipes quite simple.
Yes, I did notice that you had all kinds of recipes in your new book. Anything you could want. You have Asian flavors and all kinds of things. But I loved the quick and simple recipes from your childhood, like the soupe a la vermicelles. I'm going to butcher that.
MARTIE: Yeah. I love that one. And I make it. But I didn't know it was a thing. I thought it was just something I did. But I know it's something that your family has always done.
CLAUDINE: Oh yeah.
JACQUES: Claudine likes it from your grandmother more than mine.
CLAUDINE: Yeah. That's true.
MARTIE: Tell everybody what it is.
CLAUDINE: It's a really good chicken stock and vermicelli noodles. And that's it. I mean, and then you can embellish on that, if you want to add leaks or carrots or broccoli or whatever you want to add to it, you're welcome to do that.
JACQUES: I put scallion in it.
CLAUDINE: There you go. But the classic soupe aux vermicelle in my family is chicken stock and vermicelli noodles. That's it.
MARTIE: And it literally takes, like, three minutes and you have dinner.
MARTIE: And you do a lot of soups, I noticed chef
. What is your favorite soup?
JACQUES: Well, the primary soup is probably what my wife called the fridge soup. That is, I open the fridge and there is often a carrot and a piece of zucchini and some wilted lettuce and all that stuff which goes into a skillet, into a pot with the chicken stock or water and chicken base. And we finish it with a handful of couscous or vermicelli, or anything.
JACQUES: Even oatmeal. To thicken it a little bit and that’s it. Yeah. So yeah, we do soup. And also I have to say that, you know, I'm turning 85 and my metabolism is not the same as it used to be many years ago. So other young chefs often tend to add and to add to the plate. Now I kind of remove, remove from the plate to be left with something more essential and not too much embellishments anymore.
So basically, soup is the big thing that we have. I mean, last night, we had tomato soup that I had because when I do it sometime I do it enough to freeze a couple of container. And I think the night before, we had another type of soup. Well I think we have the soup that I did with the turkey's bone and with vermicelli and leek. Yeah.
MARTIE: And I loved one with the lima beans and the sausage. And I notice you add a lot of bread to soup.
MARTIE: Is that the — so like oatmeal would be the thickening component when you add bread?
JACQUES: Oh, well, no. Oh, usually if I had bread, I wouldn't eat anything else. But I never throw out bread. In fact, I did something for Claudine for Facebook on bread last week. She hasn't shown it yet. To say that we never, never throw out bread. So I had a piece of a baguette, which was for five years — four or five days old. So it was a little hard. So I show them all to take a piece of the baguette, slice it in half. You run it under water once second and I put it in the toaster a couple of times. And then it becomes nice and fresh and crispy again to make a sandwich. And then the other piece of baguette, the whole piece, I wet it again. And you put it into the oven, 20, 25 minutes, and it's like fresh, very crunchy. You have to use it.
CLAUDINE: Yeah, you can only do that once.
JACQUES: If I had other bread, I made bread crumbs with it. I make crouton, I make anything you want, but we never throw out bread.
MARTIE: You really don't throw out anything. You use everything in the kitchen.
JACQUES: I am very miserly in the kitchen and that I learned from my mother.
MARTIE: I was gonna ask you if you learned that from Julia, because I had Dorie Greenspan on the show and she told a funny story about Julia. That when she was working with Julia, if a dish went to the sink with one tablespoon left of batter in it, she would retrieve it and then get the last of it out of the bowl and make sure you got every tiny little smidgen out.
JACQUES: Well, you know, when I was a kid during the war, we didn't have that much to eat. So believe me, everyone, any cook — and you know, it's part of tradition. And Julia learned in France and in France, a good French cook is going to be very miserly in the kitchen. There is no place in the world like in America, where you throw a third of the food or whatever. You go to China, you go to West Africa, you go to South America, anywhere that I've been in the world, those cooks are very, very miserly in the kitchen.
At some point I work at the Russian Tearoom in New York. And I was crazy. When I go into a professional kitchen, the first thing that I go, I go to the garbage to see what's in the garbage. What they throw out. And there, for example, you got a bunch of asparagus. They cut the top, throw the rest out. A case of lettuce came. They take the center out, throw the rest out. And the reason is that I have three people at the stove, and we did a thousand people a day. If I had told people you have to peel the asparagus, I probably would have been assassinated in the storeroom.
JACQUES: But the point is that in America, very often food is very cheap, and labor is expensive. Which is not the case in other parts of the world. So, you know, the owner would say that I’m not paying $12 an hour for someone to wash the lettuce. Just take the center off, throw the rest out. You know, that type of thing. That's not the case in any other part of the world except here.
CLAUDINE: And also to that point, quite frankly, when you're working in a restaurant, your restaurant, if you're lucky, you're running at 20 percent food cost, right? So if there's two tablespoons of batter and that happens over the course of a week, every single day, there's two tablespoons of batter, that adds up to real dollars at the end of the month. So, you know, really scraping the bowl and scraping out the pan to get the sauce, or the juice, or the batter, or whatever it is, really is a very cumulative process that ends up meaning dollars in the bank, dollars in your pocket.
MARTIE: I couldn't agree more. I know in my own kitchen, getting rid of, you know, half of what I've just bought at the store is important to my budget. But I have learned a lot from you, Chef, about how to use those little broken bits and the parts that maybe aren't so beautiful to make my stocks and make soups and things that maybe don't require the most perfect ingredients.
JACQUES: Yeah. But, you know, economy in the kitchen is extremely important. Economy there, but economy of motion as well. When I do the video that Claudine showed, there is two people in the kitchen. Tom Hopkins will take the video, a dear friend of mine, and me in the kitchen. I cook and do my dishes. Cook, do my dishes. There is two people.
Now I use the food processor five times before I wash it because I know how to use the food processor to make the breadcrumbs. So I starts with breadcrumbs. I throw it out. Then there'll be some mushroom, then I don't have to wash it. At some point I have to wash it. What I do a part, I just finish it up. I rinse it briefly because I know I'm going to reuse it in two, three minutes. And so forth. I peel things right on top of the garbage can or whatever. So, you know, those economy of motion makes your life easier in the kitchen. And it's a very important part of the learning how to cook.
MARTIE: I think people struggle when they say, I don't like to cook. I think it's just basically because they struggle with the simple ways of doing things and easy techniques to help them. I think this book can really help people because you do economize everything, from the techniques to the recipes. You make everything a little quicker and faster and more simple, which means it will be more fun in the end.
JACQUES: This is the reason why my son-in-law, Rollie, has done on Instagram and all that, taking all the technique, the many, many sort of technique that I've done from peeling a carrot to doing something like that to put them to teach in the kitchen on those basic technique to make your life easier. Because remember that when you're in a restaurant, it's not like home. It's 11:00 and now at 12:00 there is 80 people sitting down for lunch. It’s not a question of doing it. You have to move. You have to do it fast. Otherwise, you cannot survive. So those techniques become very important.
CLAUDINE: And all of that video is available for free on my father's foundation.
MARTIE: You know, so many of the guests that I've had on this program, on this Homemade podcast, have talked about the influences of Julia on them growing up, especially the female chefs. And many of them have said that that was their first initiation into cooking, is watching Julia and watching you on television. And it inspired them to become chefs.
JACQUES: Sorry if I ruined your life.
MARTIE: What do you think all these years later, she would think about that fact that she is still influencing the next generations of chefs, up and coming, especially female chefs?
CLAUDINE: I think she would be very happy.
JACQUES: I think she would be, because, you know, Julia — I met her in 1960. When I started doing a show with her, she always told me, "You're too serious." You know, "This is television. You have to smile." And it's true. You're absolutely right to say that you have to show people that cooking is fun. But, you know, even for that, at the end of the show, she would say, "OK, what did we teach them today?" There was always a teaching element, which was important.
MARTIE: I wondered which one of you brought the campy, fun, quirky, like coming out with a fire extinguisher or something like that. Was that you or was that her?
JACQUES: That was the bottle of wine that did that.
MARTIE: After a bottle of wine.
MARTIE: I love the fact that you always ended your show with a nice glass of wine or a drink and a toast.
JACQUES: Yeah, we always did. Except when we had Jess Jackson, because the show was sponsored by Kendall Jackson. He was a friend of mine. They flew from California to come to our house and look at one of the show to take us out for dinner after. So on that day, I cook whatever we cooked that day, we drank wine and that day I told Julia, "Well, what do you want? You want a merlot with that? Or a bit of caviar?" And she said, "I want a beer." She wanted a beer because the sponsor who does wine was here. So that was Julia. Yeah.
MARTIE: Well, so tell me your favorite Julia story. There's a million of them. I know it would be hard to pick one. And I want both of you to share with us your favorite story of Julia Child.
JACQUES: Go ahead, Claudine.
CLAUDINE: I don't know if I could actually pick a favorite story of Julia. I think one thing that I remember having happened was, we were all in Aspen at Food & Wine, which my dad and Julia and I would go to. And my dad and I would do demonstrations or my dad and Julia and it was a whole big thing. And we were at a restaurant that had just opened. And so it was pretty new and they were working out the kinks and so on. And this sprinkler system exploded in the kitchen.
JACQUES: Oh yeah, I remember.
CLAUDINE: Right before we were going to get our main course and everything got soaked. But we had a ton of appetizers on the table. Now, the chef was just humiliated, distraught. Just because, I mean, a whole kitchen soaked. And my dad and Julia, in particular, said, "Just come sit down with us, have a glass of wine. We have bread, we have cheese, we have pate, we have all the stuff you sent. We have more than enough food. Nobody's gonna die of starvation. Open up a bottle of wine."
CLAUDINE: And this kid was so — like, he was like shaken. But he was so relieved. Because all she said to him, she was like, "If your kitchen had not exploded like this, you would not be able to sit with us at the table." Like she had a way of just making you feel good about whatever disaster happened.
MARTIE: That is a wonderful story.
JACQUES: But you know, I knew Julia before I knew Claudine. Of course, Claudine wasn't born. So since Claudine was born, she knew Julia and imitate her voice. So I remember, my wife, Gloria, and I eating at the table. And Claudine would come, and imitate Julia. So I remember one time the telephone rang and Gloria picked it up. And she said, "OK Claudine, stop it. We're eating. What do you want? " And all of a sudden she's "No, no, I'm sorry, Julia. No I'm sorry, I'll get him right away." So her imitation was very good.
MARTIE: All right, Claudine. You're gonna have to do it for us. Let's hear it.
CLAUDINE: Oh. I have to stand up.
MARTIE: OK, stand up. Let's hear it.
CLAUDINE: So, yeah, so she would call and she would say, "Hello, this is Julia Childs. Is Jacque there please?" And it was hysterical because she would actually tell you who she was because...
MARTIE: Like you wouldn't know. Like you wouldn't know.
CLAUDINE: But yeah, that's the only that's the only imitation I can do.
MARTIE: I think it's wonderful. I loved it. I think that America relates so well with the two of you in the kitchen, Jacques, because of your banter and sometimes your disagreements. And one of my favorite disagreements was the black pepper versus the white pepper. There were so many episodes where she would say, you would say, "What kind of pepper?" And she'd look at you like, you know what kind of pepper. And you said, "But I like black. So I'm putting the black." So what is the big difference between the white pepper and the black pepper? And why did she always want to use white pepper?
JACQUES: For the color and for the look because otherwise, you know, peppercorn, the green pepper corn, the green peppercorn, the black pepper corn, white peppercorn, is the same berry. The green peppercorn, the unripe berry, so it has a lot of taste with a less heat. The black pepper corn is a berry with the shell on the outside. So in my opinion, it has more taste. And by the time you wet it and wash it, you remove the shell on the outside, so you have the center of the berry, the white peppercorn.
What people don't realize is that we did not have any recipe. Took probably at least two years by the time we finished the show for the book to come out because it was Random House keep calling us and want to know what did you do that day? What did you put in that dish? And so forth, which we didn't remember anyway, to create the book because, as I said, there was no recipe when we started cooking. We just started cooking and arguing and so forth, which were easier because we could put anything we wanted. And certainly we always taste. We cook, we taste. And Julia, would say, "Taste." I would taste. She'd say, "What do you think?" "I think it needs salt." She would taste it. "No, it's fine." And the next time, you know, she said, "Taste." I would taste. I say, "I think it's fine." She said, "It needs salt." And she would add salt. Always did that.
MARTIE: Everybody is going to have a different opinion. I wash the chicken. You don't wash the chicken. I mean, I love those little arguments between the two of you. And I think that's what made America fall in love with you because it was very real, very, very, very real.
MARTIE: I've heard you say many times the reason the restaurant chefs cook so well is because of repetition, they make things over and over and over again. And many times the home cook will go to a book, they'll make something once, they won't have success, and they won't try it again. So what are maybe three things that people could maybe try to make over and over again that they could master and become good at?
JACQUES: Well, you know, to start with, certainly it's important, especially for beginner cook, to give them something to do which is easy and bring their confidence up. So I would say that to start by doing a vinaigrette that I have in there that Claudine does at home. Very often I do it when I have leftover, like a jar of mustard, fresh mustard. I have a little bit one or two tablespoons left in it, then salt, pepper, two or three tablespoons of vinegar. Fill it up with olive oil, shake it. Put it in your refrigerator. You have vinaigrette for one week. And you know that it's good, fresh and takes seconds to do.
CLAUDINE: Yeah. You just have to remember to take it out of the refrigerator about 15, 20 minutes before you're gonna use it, because obviously the olive oil...
MARTIE: Separates when it's cold.
CLAUDINE: It's cold. So you just have to let it let it get to room temperature. But yeah, who buys salad dressing? This is good.
MARTIE: All right. So we make a homemade dressing. What other two things could we do?
JACQUES: The soupe aux vermicelles that Claudine...
MARTIE: The soup. OK.
JACQUES: That would be good too. Another thing, which is very easy and my type of thing, I did a pear and apple gratin Gloria. I had a pear leftover. An apple. Cut it into pieces. When I was in a restaurant, I would go through the kitchen in the morning to pick up leftover cake, any cookie leftover, croissant, pain au chocolat, Danish, all of that stuff. That I would cut, I would break down with the pear or the apple and some raisins and some melted butter, cinnamon. And you do the apple brown betty, which is really good. So something like that would be very easy to do and very good. And Claudine, you have any other suggestions?
CLAUDINE: I think that you really should learn how to master eggs. I think eggs are great. They're inexpensive and they can be for lunch. They can be for dinner. Breakfast, if you're so inclined. So I think that making eggs — and my dad did pretty recently something that looks like — it's a French omelet. So you start with potatoes. It's almost very frittata like. So you can have that for dinner with a salad, and you don't have to spend a lot of money on protein. And it's good for you. And it's healthy. It's flavorful, and it's comforting. So I would say, you know, mastering a few dishes with eggs would also be good. Not just sunny side up eggs or an omelet, which are great, but also that more complete meal that has eggs in it.
MARTIE: I think that's a great idea. Just like you do with your fridge soup. You can do a fridge omelet.
MARTIE: You know, you always end with happy cooking. I love that. What's your best advice for the home cook? How do we make cooking as much fun as it seems to be for you and Claudine and your family?
CLAUDINE: Have somebody else do the dishes.
JACQUES: Have a lot of wine. Drink a bottle of wine. People tell me, "I don't know how to cook." I said, "Do you have a friend who cook?" She said, yes. I said, "Next time you go to his house or her house, bring a bottle of wine. Say, 'Can I come an hour ahead and help you in the kitchen?' So you come an hour ahead, you open the wine, you drink it." And frankly, if the chicken is a bit burned, who cares? After a bottle of wine, everything is fine.
MARTIE: That's wonderful advice. I think that's great. And even if you do know how to cook, it's still good advice. I couldn't sleep last night because I was nervous about this interview and I was so excited. So at 2:00 in the morning, I went into the kitchen and I made your mom's souffle. Your cheese souffle.
JACQUES: No kidding.
MARTIE: No, and I opened a bottle of champagne and I waited for the omelet to finish. And I drank some champagne and I listened to French music. And I will never forget that, really. I'll remember it the rest of my life.
MARTIE: Because I was so, so nervous but so excited to have both of you on and talk to you. It's been a real honor and a real privilege.
MARTIE: As we kick off this wonderful new book, Jacques Pepin Quick & Simple, y'all, please buy it and follow along on Facebook and watch his videos. You can learn so much just from that. I picked up the technique for the omelet from watching you and I made it perfectly. Came out just perfect. And I was so pleased.
MARTIE: So, everyone, if you want to learn to cook and you don't know how, go to the Jacques Pépin Foundation Web site. You'll be able to see the videos there and you can learn anything you want to learn. American food, French food, and anything in between. Right?
MARTIE: But the most important thing is to get in the kitchen and just start cooking.
JACQUES: I'll drink to that. Happy cooking.
MARTIE: Chef, happy cooking. Claudine, thank you both so much.
CLAUDINE: Oh, thank you very much, Martie.
JACQUES: Thank you very much.
CLAUDINE: Have a great day and a wonderful, wonderful holiday season.
MARTIE: The same to all of you and your family.
JACQUES: Thank you.
MARTIE: Bon appétit.
JACQUES: Bon appétit.
MARTIE: I so loved talking to Jacques and Claudine Pepin. You can find videos, recipes, and more at Pépin Foundation's website at JP.foundation. And check out his art at JacquesPepinArt.com. I personally get a lot of recipes from watching his daily videos on Facebook. Most of these are recipes that you'll find in his new book, Jacques Pépin Quick & Simple. And of course, you can follow him on Instagram, as well.
If you haven’t already, subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss is it. And don't forget, you can find thousands of recipes, meal ideas, and cooking how-tos from the world’s largest community of cooks at Allrecipes.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This podcast was recorded in Birmingham, edited in Atlanta, and can be found wherever you get your podcasts.
Homemade is produced by AllRecipes with Executive Editor Jason Burnett. Thanks to our Pod People production team: Rachael King, Eliza Lambert, Tanya Ott, and Maya Kroth.
Thanks for listening! I’m Martie Duncan, and this is Homemade.