Home Blog American Masters’ Chefs Flight: Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft

American Masters’ Chefs Flight: Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft

May 24, 2017

Good news for those of us who can’t get enough of bios and documentaries about famous chefs: two pioneering chefs/cookbook authors are the subject of an American Masters TV series airing in May, 2017.

Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft and a new film about James Beard (James Beard: America’s First Foodie) both feature in the oddly-named “Chefs Flight.”

jacques pepin

Jacques-Pepin-World-Premiere, KQED

‘Encore’ presentations (I think the term is re-runs!) about Julia Child (Julia! America’s Favorite Chef) and Alice Waters (Alice Waters and Her Delicious Revolution) round out the mini-doc series.

Here’s how American Masters sums it up:

The culinary journey of American Masters “Chefs Flight” — four documentaries on legendary chefs — continues with a profile on Jacques Pépin, a young immigrant with movie-star looks and a charming Gallic accent, who elevated essential kitchen techniques to an art form to become one of America’s most beloved food icons.

Interviews with Pépin’s wife Gloria and daughter Claudine, culinary stars and media personalities including José Andrés, Daniel Boulud, Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio, Rachael Ray, Marcus Samuelsson, and Fareed Zakaria, “promise insights into the chef and the man.”

“I start to realize that I could put some of myself in the food. It didn’t have to be exactly the way my mother wanted it to be,” says Pépin, recalling this pivotal moment in his life.


Jacques Pepin, The Apprentice

In fact, the American Masters’ bio of Pépin is so extensive, I almost wondered why I needed to watch the film. You can read the press release, here, if you’re so inclined. But I think you’d ruin the film if you did that.

For details on the four-part series and airing dates, see this more detailed post.

Meanwhile, I learned some interesting facts about Pépin (much of which is covered in his excellent earlier memoir, The Apprentice.

Some insights from the film

  • Pépin (born in 1935) left home at the tender age of 13, to begin a formal apprenticeship at the distinguished Grand Hôtel de l’Europe. His first break came at 16, when, as the sole chef, he cooked a fireman’s banquet in the alpine resort town of Bellegarde.
  • Drafted into the Navy during World War II and assigned to Paris as a cook at Navy headquarters, he eventually became the personal chef for three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.
  • Pépin relates that in the late 1950s, the cook, even the “first chef,” is really at the bottom of the social scale and viewed as “the help,” apparently part of the reason he decided to move to the United States in 1959.
  • In New York, Pépin landed a job at Le Pavillon, the most influential French restaurant in the country, and soon met the three people he calls the “Trinity of Cooking:” Craig Claiborne (food editor of The New York Times), James Beard, and Julia Child.
  • Pépin was once “courted” for the position of “first chef” in the new Kennedy White House, a position he turned down. Instead, he went to work in the kitchens of Howard Johnson’s hotel and restaurant chain.
  • A near-fatal car accident in 1974 was the catalyst that pushed Pépin’s life in a different direction as a writer, teacher, and ultimately a media star.
  • The film is produced and directed by Peter L. Stein, a Peabody Award–winning documentary filmmaker who first started working with Pépin in 1989 as producer of what became Pépin’s landmark public television series Today’s Gourmet, and who went on to oversee seven seasons of cooking programs with Pépin in the 1990s.

“Coming back into Jacques’ life after all these years to help tell his remarkable story has been a real privilege,” says Stein, “Especially now, in our food- and chef-crazed culture, to be able to reflect back and see his career as pivotal in transforming the way America cooks, eats, and appreciates the role of the chef in America.”


THIRTEEN’s “American Masters” “Chefs Flight” Continues with “Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft” Friday, May 26, mainly on PBS. Check your U.S. and Canada local listings for details.  For more details on the four-part series, see this more detailed post.


*Original source: THIRTEEN’s ’American Masters’ ’Chefs Flight’ Continues with ’Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft’ + THIRTEEN.

http://pbs.org/americanmasters, http://facebook.com/americanmasters, @PBSAmerMasters, http://pbsamericanmasters.tumblr.com, http://youtube.com/AmericanMastersPBS, http://instagram.com/pbsamericanmasters.

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen (Hardcover)

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heart and soul
Grilled Snapper with Olive Topping, by Jacques Pepin
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
25 mins
Recipe from Heart & Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin. Copyright © 2015 by Jacques Pépin. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
  • Snapper topping
  • 1 cup mixed pitted olives , coarsely cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small tomato , halved, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1/2 cup)
  • 1 yellow or red (or red) bell pepper (about 8 ounces), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 skinless snapper (or striped bass) fillets (about 6 ounces each)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 145 degrees for warming the plates and resting the grilled fish, which always seems to improve its texture. (The fish can be cooked up to 20 minutes ahead and kept warm in the oven.)
  2. Heat a grill to high.
  3. For the Topping
  4. Mix all the ingredients together. Set aside.
  5. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and rub on both sides with the oil. Sprinkle with the salt.
  6. Place the fish on the hot grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare, or longer if you like your fish well cooked. Transfer the fish to a platter and let rest in the oven for up to 20 minutes, until ready to serve.
Recipe Notes

Note: This recipe is designed for snapper (or striped bass) on the BBQ grill. Serve fish on warm plates, sprinkled with the olive topping.

*Recipe from Heart & Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin. Copyright © 2015 by Jacques Pépin. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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