I'm A Fan
There are few famous chefs that I truly admire. I love Jamie Oliver, his style and his food, and I respect what he's trying to do for school food. I chuckle at Guy Fieri, even though most of the food he goes in search of is not to my taste - I just dig the 'do. But most of the celebrity chefs leave me cold. Either they are too smug, or too obviously coiffed, or smarmy, or something.
But Jacques Pépin has always been a favorite of mine. I have a video of him cooking with Julia Child that never fails to make me laugh - they had a wonderful rapport in the kitchen, even if she was always sneaking more butter into his recipes. I watch him as much for his skill and his frugality as for his recipes, and he never fails to impress the heck out of me.
So, when we were back east last week, helping to clear out My Beloved's mother's house after Hurricane Irene burst in with eighteen inches of sea water, I was thrilled to see a notice in the local bookshop that Jacques Pépin was giving an author's talk about his latest book, Essential Pépin, in the very town where we were staying. Needless to say, I reserved places for me and My Beloved. We took a break from packing up water-soaked books and linens to go to the local Congregational church for his talk.
I came away even more impressed. He is as charming in person as on television, but also warmer, sweetly diplomatic and gentlemanly. Faced with an audience question about his favorite restaurant in the Mexican town where he goes each winter, he deflected it with the answer that he usually cooks at home, having been to the farmers market. Pressed for an answer, he smiled and said, "You must just try them all until you find the one you like best."
He answered questions for perhaps half an hour and then started signing books. The organizer assured us that photographs with him were allowed, so here I am, flushed with excitement, next to one of my heroes. I'm always tongue-tied around famous people, so all I said was "Thank you" but it's a moment I won't soon forget. I'm a fan for life.