Our conversation with Jacques Pépin was so good that we had to cut it into two parts. And speaking of cutting things, the man knows a thing or two about technique. In part one, we looked back on Pépin’s extraordinary career and proficiency; this time around, we get down to brass tacks: eating and drinking.
Despite having trained in rigid kitchen brigades in France, Pépin has a surprisingly lenient definition of perfection. Perfect food for Jacques Pépin is "a food done with superb ingredients, and a food which is cooked with love,” he tells MUNCHIES editor-in-chief Helen Hollyman. “Because you cannot really cook any differently. It can be very simple."
Jacques is also very candid about his love for, shall we say, cheaper products. “I love hot dogs. There is no food that is taboo for me. I can eat anything; I have no guilt. In fact, I love a good hot dog.” And he applies that very same logic to wine. “$12 is a lot of money [for a bottle of wine]. Grapes that are not really used that much, you can find some very good wine at $6, $7, $8, $9." Jacques likes the fancy stuff too, he just prefers to give it to friends. "I just gave a bottle of 1959 Romanee-Conti to a friend of mine because he collects wine. He was crazy with that bottle, but for me it was fine, no big deal."
Needless to say, Pépin also has some more pearls of wisdom for young chefs, insisting that no matter how honed their skills are, it always comes down to the quality of the ingredients before them. "It's the ingredient first, there is no escaping that,” he told us. “If you're a good technician, you can torture the food to make it edible, but nothing better than that if you don't have good ingredients."
So, get some cheap wine and a couple of hot dogs, and listen to one of the most insightful and charming educators in food drop seven decades' worth of knowledge.