Q&A With Jacques and Claudine

By Rina Rapuano, Photo by Elizabeth Parker

Maybe you became acquainted with culinary legend Jacques Pepin through one of his many cooking shows, either solo or with Julia Child or his daughter, Claudine. Or perhaps you picked up his 2003 memoir “The Apprentice,” a wonderful read filled with amazing yet simple recipes. Or you could have a kitchen shelf filled with his hefty cookbooks.

No matter. The point is that at some period during his decades-long career of cooking and teaching folks how to prepare French food, you have heard of Jacques Pepin.

Some lucky attendees of last weekend’s Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show got to watch Jacques and Claudine’s amusing father-daughter dynamic play out on stage during a cooking demo. We were even luckier, scoring a sit-down where we learned of Jacques’ love of Michel Richard’s food (they dined at Central Michel Richard the night before), that he’s a late riser, and which dishes they chose to make that brisk fall day.

What was your favorite dish at Central?

Claudine: Well, the prosciutto was great.

Jacques: Oh, yes, the prosciutto was terrific. Everything was good. … We had beef tartar to start. And after, I had a clambake mixture of lobster and oyster and mussels and so forth, so it was terrific. And we had a great dessert, a kind of puff [pastry] napoleon.

Claudine: I had a warm spinach salad, which was so wonderful. And some fried chicken.

 

Have you eaten in other places in D.C. that you’ve enjoyed?

Jacques: Last time I had dinner at Citronelle. And I had dinner at [a] Roberto Donna [restaurant], and that was great.

 

Do you ever use anybody else’s cookbooks, or is it just so intuitive that you don’t bother?

Jacques: I hate to use cookbooks, including mine, because I say, “Gee, well, why did I do that, anyway?” Sometimes I have to, because I have to check on a recipe. But no, usually I don’t. Sometimes when I do Chinese or some type of other Oriental food, you know, Thai or whatever, I probably will read the recipe and take a look at the ingredients, understand the thing, then I go on from there.

 

What can people expect to see in your cooking demo?

Jacques: Well, we’re going to do a bistro type of dish. The main dish is a poulet au vinaigre, chicken and vinegar, that we have in that book [“Essential Pepin”], a specialty of Lyon where the chicken is cooked on the skin and then deglazed with a lot of garlic and white wine vinegar and some tomato. It’s a very earthy type of dish. With that, we’re doing a puree of turnips and potato with garlic, also. And then we are doing an apple fritter for dessert. And we start with a polenta, actually, with a kind of ragout of different vegetables, you know, corn and tomato and mushroom.

Claudine: Which he changed because it used to be just a mushroom ragout [in the cookbook].

 

What’s your favorite breakfast?

Claudine: Lunch!

Jacques: I don’t really eat breakfast. Sometimes if I am somewhere, I have a croissant with café au lait, but really, that’s it. Usually, I don’t have much breakfast. … I wake up at the crack of 10.

 

What do you like about shows like this?

Claudine: I think it’s really fun because a show like this, from my point of view, … is very accessible to more people than going to Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic, which is already a destination. So you have to get yourself there and put yourself up in a hotel. … With a big venue like this, I see more kids, and you see just more people that span the range of the United States because it’s an affordable ticket, and I think that that’s really nice.

Jacques: We had a question this afternoon with a little kid. It’s true, you touch more people, and that’s the idea for us. … It’s great, and it’s also very well organized. All those culinary students in the back who are just dying to help you, … and you have good equipment. It makes our life much easier. It’s good.