Browsing Tag

Jacques Pepin

Brain Food


May 31, 2012

By Thomas McNamee
Story by Mort Hochstein

It was a surprise to me when, recently, I mentioned Craig Claiborne to a knowledgeable friend and he did not recognize the name. In the sixties and seventies, Claiborne dominated the Manhattan food scene and had a nationwide and international influence as restaurant critic and food editor of the New York Times. Quiet and retiring, he was a powerhouse who wrote two dozen books and fathered restaurant criticism as we know it today.

In those years, I produced Claiborne’s appearances on the Today program and occasionally accompanied him when he reviewed restaurants. On one memorable occasion in the mid-sixties, I worked with him as he gave sushi its first major showcase on television. I thought I knew the man. How wrong I was.

A stunning new biography, The Man Who Changed The Way We Eat, portrays Claiborne’s contribution to gastronomy, in the palaces of haute cuisine and in the kitchens of cooks, great and humble. Author Thomas McNamee celebrates the mild mannered Southern gentleman who propelled the food revolution of the last century and we learn almost more than some might care to know about his troubled private life.

McNamee, who also gave us Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, traces Claiborne’s culinary career from his childhood in the kitchen of a renowned Mississippi Delta boarding house where his mother, Miss Kathleen, served the hush puppies and country ham of the region, but also offered sophisticated Creole cuisine which she had learned in New Orleans. He traces another food influence, Claiborne’s navy stint in World War Two, service under fire on the cruiser Augusta in the Mediterranean and eight months based in Morocco and Algeria where he discovered French bistro cooking along with the tagines and spices of North Africa.

After military service, Claiborne studied classical French cuisine and hospitality at the famed Swiss hotel school in Lausanne and returned to the States after two years to begin a campaign that would take him to the New York Times. He worked as a publicist—unhappily-, tended bar and was a receptionist at Gourmet, writing and editing without a byline. He also wrote freelance and his articles brought him in 1957 to the attention of the editor of the Times’ women’s pages, who took a chance on an unseasoned writer, but not before passing him on to Turner Catledge, her managing editor. Catledge, like Claiborne, had attended Mississippi State College and that, Claiborne noted in a memoir, helped clinch the deal.

But nothing happened accidentally with Claiborne. He knew that he’d have to interview with the tough, but folksy editor, and came in ready to play the ‘ol’ boy’ routine with Catledge. The two Mississippians palavered Delta fashion; reminiscing about school days down south and Claiborne was on the first step to inciting a food revolution.

Once on staff, Claiborne slogged his way through assignments, most not related to restaurant reviews. Cannily, when he did review restaurants, he invited senior editors and their wives to join him; on the company, of course. His goal was to make them court him and he dreamed up pleasurable assignments to make research enjoyable. He avoided restaurant reviews as much as possible because Continue Reading…



December 12, 2011

The man, the myth,the legend (and the truth about being humble, beloved, and having a sweet tooth)
By Francine Cohen

Photo courtesy of the International Culinary Center

When tickets for the NY Wine & Food Festival went on sale a few months back almost instantaneously some of the most popular events featuring Food Network Stars and industry luminaries were sold out. With prices for most events hovering around just $100 per person or so it’s no wonder; in this age of foodie madness, and the spotlight on celebrity chefsevents like these are a big draw and easily accessible.

Draw as they may, and with no disrespect intended for folks like Giada DeLaurentis, and Bobby Flay and his sold out event popular Tacos & Tequila hosted by Bobby Flay, the real celebrity event for the whole festival was a coveted ticket to the Jacques Pepin tribute dinner on Saturday night.

How could it not be? Pepin has been cooking on television almost as long as DeLaurentis and Flay have been alive, the chefs preparing dinner were a culinary pantheon of who’s who (Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, Laurent Gras, Alain Sailhac, and Jacques Torres), the wines which were provided by Prince Robert of Luxembourg (Pepin’s co-honoree) and his house of Domaine Clarence Dillon, were described by dinner co-chair Roberta Morrell (Morrell & Company) as “absolutely stunning” and Martha Stewart appeared to MC the whole shebang.

Over a leisurely lunch with Chef Pepin over at L’Ecole, the student run restaurant at The French Culinary Institute ( where he is Dean of Special Programs, he opened up and about the dinner, his career, and his new book (more on that later in our Brain Food column)- Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food.

While Pepin graciously pooh-poohed all the hoopla as he says, “They’re just using my birthday as an excuse for this party,” everyone else in attendance (all 450 of them) was thrilled to fete this charming mentor.

Dinner co-chair, and current President of Les Dames d’Escoffier ( Melanie Young of The Connected Table ( shares the sentiment of those who attended and raised $83,00 for Les Dames d’Escoffier’s Make A Difference Scholarship Fund in Pepin’s honor. She remarks, “Jacques is a teacher, mentor and chef who has touched many lives in this industry. He was a dear friend and television collaborator with Julia Child, one of Les Dames d’Escoffier’s “Grand Dames.” His body of work is incredibly impactful and impressive: author of 26 books, host of 11 acclaimed public television series and the highest accolades both here in the U.S.A. and in France.”

She continues, “This October Jacques is releasing one of his most comprehensive books ever, Essential Pepin, which features the best recipes he has created over his 60 -year career. The book is being released in tandem with a 26-episode KQED PBS series of the same name.”

While Pepin was the reason they were all there, he wasn’t the only big name in the house happy to be there. Alain Sailhac had stopped by the table at L’Ecole and to share his excitement for the evening as well as waxing poetic and reveal details about his planned menu (along with a fair bit of ribbing directed Pepin’s way after which Pepin declared themselves just like two of the three Stooges). Sailhac’s excitement was matched by the other chefs who joined him in thethe kitchen that night as Young notes, “All of the chefs were very enthusiastic from the start. After all, what a privilege it is to cook a dinner to honor an industry legend like Jacques Pepin who was chef to three French presidents, has taught and mentored countless chefs and whose cookbooks are considered classics!

Continue Reading…



February 11, 2010

Chefs Michael Lomonaco and Alfred Portale take a moment at C-CAP Benefit 2009

C-CAP’s 20th Anniversary Benefit features NYC Celebrity Chefs and High School Student Volunteers at Gala Tasting Event

On Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., at PIER SIXTY at Chelsea Piers, The Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), the non-profit organization that since 1990 has awarded high school students $28 million in scholarships, and donated $2.3 million worth of supplies and equipment to classrooms, will host its 20th Anniversary Celebration.

This year, C-CAP is honoring chef, author and TV personality Marcus Samuelsson for his extraordinary achievements and contributions to the culinary industry, his long time dedication to C-CAP and his commitment to nurturing the next generation of chefs. As this year’s honoree, Marcus Samuelsson will receive the C-CAP Honors Award for his ongoing work with C-CAP providing internships, job shadows and jobs for students, and serving as a judge at the annual C-CAP NY Cooking Competition for Scholarships.

Past recipients of the C-CAP Honors Award include Drew Nieporent, Alfred Portale, Continue Reading…