How cobbling together an omlette from the bin made Jacques Pepin a household name

How cobbling together an omlette from the bin made Jacques Pepin a household name

The 85-year-old cooking show host, chef and author has always cooked intuitively

Chef Jacques Pepin
Chef Jacques Pepin Image Credit: Image courtesy Jacques Pépin Foundation

Jacques Pepin sits in the back of a car outside a supermarket, holding a bag of groceries he has just shopped for and confesses of having no idea what he'll do with its contents.

But here's the difference between you, me and Pepin — he doesn't need to know. He has 15 or 20 minutes before he'll unload at The Post's kitchen, sharpen his knives and start shredding cabbage and peeling apples. Then and only then it'll come to him.

Getting better

“This is how I cook on the weekdays,'' says Pepin, 72. “Yes, I sometimes take the weekend and make something ambitious.

"But most days I go to the market, I see what looks good, I buy things, I come home and I cook. That's it.''

For Pepin there are no second takes. Whether it's on the set of his television show (More Fast Food My Way) or in his home kitchen in Connecticut or in a cooking session, it's start to finish, in a flash. No second-guessing, no turning back.

“It's really easy for me,'' Pepin's producer, Tina Salter, said.

“He goes up there and just cooks. The hardest thing, is dragging him out of the kitchen and getting him into make-up to start shooting.''

You get the feeling that it has always been like that for Pepin, who, in five decades since he moved to the US from France, has become one of America's most beloved cooking legends.

On his first TV audition in New York in the late 1960s, he naively arrived unprepared to cook.

Dishes from tryouts

So, right before the camera started rolling, he rummaged through a garbage can to cobble together the discards of the tryouts before him.

He grabbed some butter and eggs from the fridge, whipped up an omelette and got the job.

Pepin's from-the-garbage-bin story, which he recounts in his 2003 autobiography, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen, makes us wonder: Maybe I should've taken him rubbish bin diving.

Instead, I took him on supermarket trip. As he made his way through the produce, seafood, meat and dairy, Pepin showed the same genial nature that his fans and readers have come to know.

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