Jacques Pepin

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When the Elvis of the food world, Jacques Pepin turns 80, there is reason for chefs, cookbook authors, media personalities and press to celebrate. And they do.

Happy Birthday Jacques!

In Washington D.C. at this year’s IACP (the International Association of Cooking Professionals) conference, there was a huge celebration for Jacques with the ‘tout le monde’ of the food world. Everyone made a cake which then would be auctioned for the IACP culinary trust. The ICC made an exquisite and elegant cake but the piece de resistance for the night was the creation of our Dean Jacques Torres made  with his team and our pastry department’s Chef Jansen Chen and students. They created a lifesize stove of 400 pounds of chocolate festooned with books, pots and pictures. Also, all made of chocolate. Setting off at 7 am from ICC to New York, the huge stove arrived in DC by noon. The cracks and crevices suffered because the pockscarred roads, were smoothed out to such a degree, no one know of the rough ride.

Scenes from the stove

Viewing the stove, ICC's Jansen Chan and Jacques Torres

Daniel Boulud, Jose Andres, Dorothy Hamilton, Jacques Torres

Sherry Yard with Dorothy Hamilton

The impressive and huge sculpture was only overshadowed by the chefs who attended: Jose Andres, Daniel Boulud, Sherry Yard, Bill Yosses, Michel Richard and many more. The gayity and celebration of the evening was not dampened by the fact that Jacques Pepin could not attend. He had suffered a minor stroke a few days earlier and had to Skype in. He was thrilled and touched. (And is doing very well I am glad to report.)

Daniel Boulud, Jose Andres, Dorothy Hamilton, Jacques Torres

Patrick O'Connell's Lobster in a Pot

Of the 80 cakes some of the most astonishing were Patrick O’Connell’s Lobster in a Pot, the Coast Guard’s complete with official seal, and D’Artagnan’s cake of Foie Gras and berry jam.

ICC's Chocolate Mousse Gateaux and D'Artagnan's Fois Gras Cake

Bill Yosses, Michel Richard, Hasty and Jacques Torres

Bill Yosses, the former White House pastry chef (and now teaching at the ICC starting in September) was the cake doctor. Since many of these cakes travelled even thousands of miles (Spago) there was a cake hospital on site. Every cake was a beauty by the time the auction took place.

I never saw so much love infused in buttercream!

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My heart is so heavy today, losing Marcella is like losing a beloved aunt, she taught me so much. She taught so many others too, through her books and classes. She was a beloved member of our ICC faculty, for over ten years, and we all mourn her passing deeply, she will always have a special place in our ICC family.  Our sympathies to her family- husband Victor, always by her side, a fixture during her classes, their son Giuliano, their daughter -in- law Lael and the grandchildren.

What she did best: teach

Prepping for class, on the left, one of her favorites Chef Susan Lifrieri-Lowry

I have two stories to share and both illustrate the kind of person she really was. Marcella gave me a recipe one Saturday over the phone, her version of fast food. I was in a rush to cook a light dinner, I’d just sent her some Swiss chard from my garden. She told me to get some chard, put some olive oil in a pan, saute a little garlic to a fragrant, golden hue and then add the softened chard (boiled for a few minutes in salt water) and salt and pepper. Here’s the brilliance: she also told me to open a can of Goya garbanzo beans, drain and add to the pan. Let warm and even crisp a little with the chard. It was delicious!

Marcella's lunch at L'Ecole, all of us in Marcella masks!

Many years ago: Dorothy, Victor Hazan, Marcella, Jacques Pepin

She also wrote me a poignant note when my mother passed away. She shared that her own mother had died at a very, very old age but still Marcella was stunned and bereft. She said, “Dorothy, even though I was in my seventies, I felt like an orphan.”

I think we are all culinary orphans today. Thank you so much for everything Marcella.

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Jacques Pépin, José Andres, Dorothy Hamilton

I had a wonderful lunch at ICC last week. Yes, the food at L’Ecole was delicious (especially the pork belly appetizer) but it was the company that made it really special. Two Deans were in the house, Jacques Pépin and José Andres. Jacques was getting ready to do his egg demo for our students with 60 plus egg preparations and José was checking in on his new curriculum and course at the school, Spanish Culinary Arts, which will debut in February.

We talked about perceptions of Jacques and José as teachers. Does one study with Jacques to learn French cuisine or with José for Spanish cuisine? They joked that they were both held hostage by their accents and that their culinary styles are hugely influenced by their native lands. Both fiercely love their national cuisines. Yet both masters had to admit their styles are very much their own, reflecting their own unique personalities, tastes and skills. Pepin is the Zen guru of technique and José is one of the leading practicioners of avante garde cuisine in the world.

Jacques Pépin- Roast Capon with Armagnac-Mushroom Sauce

José Andres Liquid Olives

So, if you study with one of these super-chefs, do you study their native cuisine, or their personal style? Both vehemently insisted that you can’t understand their style without a basic knowledge of their native techniques and taste notes first. More importantly, you can’t even approach either man’s greatness without studying the fundamentals. Thus, for close to 30 years classic culinary arts has been the student’s entree for Jacques. And now our new Spanish course is the welcoming smile of José.

Joining the Spanish Culinary Arts program will not only give you an insight to the culture, history and taste of the native cuisine of Spain but will form the foundation to learn and realize José’s avant garde cuisine. As José explains, you have to understand the tomato seed, you need to taste it in its pure glory, you need to know how to handle it on the most basic and traditional levels and then, and only then, can you aspire and expand to Minibar pyrotechnics! Don’t miss out on José’s course this February. It is only 10 weeks and he is personally shepherding the class to Spain for a packed week of tradition and contemporary culinary adventure.

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If you haven’t heard, my old PBS show, Chef’s Story, is now a radio program. You can tune into Heritage Radio Network and listen every Wednesday at noon Eastern for an insightful, in depth conversation with today’s top chefs. The show is broadcast from the inimatable restaurant compound of Roberta’s in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Jacques Pepin, Roberta's, Brooklyn, NY

Jacques and Dorothy

The debut was last Wednesday with Jacques Pepin. You can download the interview from Heritage’s site and hear all about Jacques’ father in the French Resistance, his philosophy of techniques and all round fascinating conversation from a true Renaissance man.

One of the great benefits of being on the show is that my guest chef and myself get to eat Roberta’s fabulous pizza for a post- show lunch.  Since it was Jacques, the kitchen crew also sent out some pasta with a fabulous goat braised stew. He smacked his lips and said, “this is really good!”

Tune in Wednesday, May 16th, when I have Chef Dan Kluger from New York City’s ABC Kitchen as my guest.

I’m just loving it!

HRN's Founder Patrick Martins, Producer Jack Inslee, Jacques & Dorothy

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