Texas Book Festival 2022 – Talkin’ Chicken With Jacques Pépin at the Texas Book Festival: The revered culinarian’s new book showcases his paintings and stories of poultry – Arts

Jacques Pepin and his feathered friends (Photo by Tom Hopkins)

Jacques Pepin, 86, is a household name among home cooks, not to mention those who grew up watching a lot of PBS. (When I texted my best friend to let him know I was interviewing Jacques Pepin, he excitedly asked me to cook with him at his house. I told him I’d see what I could do.)

It is not necessary to repeat Pepin’s resume; Suffice to say, if you’ve been interested in the culinary world for the past half century, you’re familiar with this French chef, educator, television personality, and cookbook author.

Pepin, who has authored 30 cookbooks and also painted for decades, now writes. The Art of Chicken: Master Chef Pictures, Stories, and Recipes from the Humble Birdit contains dozens of his paintings – bright, energetic and whimsical renderings of all types of poulet.

Dandy Rooster Jacques Pepin, watercolor

“I have been married for 54 years. [Pépin’s wife, Gloria, died in December 2020.] When people came to the house, I wrote down the menu in a book. On the other hand, let the people sign. So, we have 12 big books, which is my whole life of these menus, Pepin said. – I realized that I liked to put chickens on them, so I started painting chickens that way. (See – and buy – examples of handmade and illustrated menus at jacquespepinart.com.)

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At first, Pepin wanted to create a book with pictures of chickens only. His publisher initially agreed, but then asked for the recipes. “I don’t want to make a recipe!” I said. That’s why I decided to write a memoir, talking about the chickens and the eggs, of course, from different parts of the world and about my own experiences.” Yes, there are recipes, but they don’t have any measurements or instructions, just an account of Pepin’s steps in making them. “Some of them may be possible and some may not because of the story,” he said.

Pepin’s reverence for the chicken is evident in this book in all its forms, from pattern to food. Through his memoirs, he proves that chicken is the most democratic food, not to mention the passport of other foods.

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“I’ll probably publish a book with 10,000 chicken recipes,” he said. “From China to Africa, from the street truck stop to the cafeteria to the three-star restaurant, there’s truffle chicken under the skin or just fried chicken or whatever. I don’t know of any country. A world without chicken, any kind of cuisine. So I think it’s a democratic form of food. That’s why you can always learn. You just have to travel a little bit and go to Australia or Turkey and all these countries. All of a sudden you see things that you’ve never seen before and you don’t have.”

“I don’t know of any country in the world that doesn’t have chicken … it’s a democratic type of food.” – Jacques Pepin

Learning and more teaching is a big part of the Pepin brand. Along with Julia Child, he not only earned a certificate in culinary arts and a master’s degree in gastronomy from Boston University’s Metropolitan College, but also became the founding dean of the French Culinary Institute (later the International Culinary Center, which merged with the Culinary Institute) in New York City. Education 2020). Since the pandemic began, he’s channeled the energy of his old PBS cooking show into producing nearly 300 how-to cooking videos (the most recent being a country omelet with potatoes, onions, and herbs).

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Indeed, just as chicken is a democratic ingredient, cooking is a democratic skill. To that end, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Pepin’s books and paintings will benefit the Jacques Pepin Foundation, which provides free culinary training to people with barriers to employment such as homelessness, incarceration, and other challenges. “I’ve always said it’s all the same in front of the stove, you know,” said Pepin. “The kitchen is a great equalizer, and so is the dining room. That’s how you bring people together, and maybe we don’t have enough of that.”


Jacques Pepin discusses his new book, Chicken art, Saturday, Nov. 5, at 1 p.m. at Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E. Eighth. This is a ticketed event. Tickets are $37 and include a copy The Art of Chicken: Master Chef Pictures, Stories, and Recipes from the Humble Bird (Harvest, p. 256, $30).



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