Friday, January 13, 2012

Where Have All the Experts Gone?

I don't spend a lot of time watching cooking shows, because, well, I spend that time cooking instead.  It's a participatory activity for me, not entertainment.  But I'll tell you one person I can (and do) watch cook with great entertainment on my part: Jacques Pepin.

I recently got a collection of DVDs from the library entitled The Complete Pepin: Techniques and Recipes.  It's a collection of very short segments detailing the proper way to execute the most basic things.  Like peeling a tomato, for which Jacques Pepin demonstrates no less than four different ways.  He also shows you how to make a decorative rose from the tomato skins, which I am unlikely to ever do, but enjoy watching nonetheless.

What I'm always struck by when I watch the man cook, however, are his amazing abilities with a knife.  He makes cutting, chopping, dicing, slicing, and whatever else look absolutely effortless.  And I love that.  I'm tired of all these celebrity cooks who take great pride in being cooks, not chefs.  Just like you and me!

I don't want to watch someone like me cook.  I want to watch someone like Jacques Pepin cook.  Because it is always more interesting and entertaining to watch an expert do something spectacularly.

I will never be as skilled as Jacques Pepin.  I don't think anyone I've ever seen is as skilled as Jacques Pepin.  He is absolutely an expert at his profession.  But still--and this is the main reason he's my favorite chef of all time--he's unafraid to say things like, "Hey, cook your hamburger however you want!  If you want it well done, have at it!  It's your hamburger.  Also, I like iceberg lettuce on my hamburger, because it's crunchy."  That's paraphrased of course, but you get the idea.  Despite his consummate skill and his extremely traditional French culinary training, he is absolutely not a food snob.  He wants people to cook, to not be afraid of it, to think it's easy and fun.

It'll never be as easy and fun for me as it is for him, but he's sure a lot of fun to watch.

I didn't have a real point to this, except that I think Jacques Pepin is the best thing to come out of a kitchen since pasta, and I wish there were more chefs like him.

That's all.  Have a fabulous weekend, duckies.


Anonymous said...

There is also his sexy accent. ;)
I always like watching him and Julia...they had such great fun while cooking.

Jen said...

I love him! Watching he and Julia cook together on PBS started my love of cooking shows.

Mary W said...

I agree completely. When the camera does a close up of his hands, both my husband and I are transfixed. I'm done watching Food Network--too many competition and cooking shows. I want to actually learn something I don't know.

Phoo-D said...

Mr. B and I used to watch Jacques and Julia cook together every Saturday morning on PBS. They had such a fun and skilled approach to cooking, it was a wonderful way to start the weekend.

FinnyKnits said...

I think that's also why people loved Julia - she, while completely expert, was not an intimidating figure because she WANTED people to cook, not just gawk at how well SHE could cook.

A joy to watch, both of them.

Roger A. Post said...

Another thing, perhaps "woodchuck," about Jacques Pepin is his refusal to throw anything in the compost that still has a culinary use in making soups or stock.

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

Dude. I totally agree.

I watched Melissa D'arabian "cook" the other day and when she pulled out a store bought baguette and smeared 'special butter" on it (butter mixed with garlic, cheese, and parsley) I knew the days of "the chefs" were falling behind us.