Learn About a Lifetime in the Kitchen From the Legendary Apprentice, Jacques Pépin
When I started getting good enough to need cookbooks, the first one I purchased was Jacques Pépin’s La Technique. It had everything, from the proper way to cut fennel to how to save a broken hollandaise sauce. It was a culmination of the man’s remarkable career that spanned over half a century, including inestimable figures like Julia Child and Charles de Gaulle, and reflected what has since become a dead practice of chefdom lore: the classical French apprenticeship.
The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen is Pépin’s memoir, and what he did was commonplace for the time. When he was a boy during WWII, he was sent off to live on a farm—far, but not quite far enough from Nazi occupation. He started helping his father bottle the house red when he was nine, and when he was 13 he was sent off to apprentice at his first kitchen. For many years he wasn’t allowed to talk or ask questions, just imitate and hope he wouldn’t have a pan thrown at him for his troubles.
Why he’s a household name instead of countless other classically trained French chefs is because he seized upon the American dream and made it his. Jacques Pépin has an amazing story that’s perfectly delectable from start to finish and well worth listening to in his lilting French accent.