Author: Jacques Pépin
The variety of Pépin's experience is striking. His early time in professional kitchens reflects the same pirate ship atmosphere one sees in other books but he eventually became the private chef for French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. He had an opportunity to cook in Kennedy's White House, too, but instead took a job in the Howard Johnson's test kitchen. While that seems like a crazy career move on the surface, it put him on the front lines of an emerging restaurant chain industry. The decision also fueled his insatiable drive to learn - about food, certainly, but also about American culture at-large.
Pépin is clearly a people person. Nearly every story involves an extensive entourage. Plus, everyone he knows is passionate about food. Household names abound in his social circles, including Julia Child, James Beard and even Danny Kaye.
The book is loads of fun. Pépin has accumulated wonderful stories over the years - many of them quite funny. It made me hungry, too, and fueled my enthusiasm for cooking. Once again, I am left fascinated by the idea of hunting for mushrooms - something I generally don't even like eating. The editing is a little funky sometimes. I occasionally had to sort out the year of a particular anecdote on my own. But the man's personal charm shines through.