Jacques Pépin Honored At Hayground

Tom Hopkins
Photo: Tom Hopkins

World-renowned Chef Jacques Pépin will join honorary chairpersons Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick at this year’s Hayground Chefs Dinner.

“It was Florence Fabricant who called me from the New York Times,” said Pépin on being recognized at this year’s event. “They wanted to honor me and I said, ‘Great, terrific.’”

The annual benefit, which supports the Hayground School, will be held Sunday, July 29, in Jeff’s Kitchen at the Bridgehampton school. Five-star chefs will cook for guests as they celebrate Chef Pépin.

“I’ve been in the kitchen 70 years now,” noted Pépin when asked about his early culinary memories. He was exposed to the restaurant business as a young child. His parents, Jeannette and Jean-Victor Pépin, owned the restaurant Le Pélican near Leon, France, where he worked and discovered his love of food.

“I was there with my brother working in the kitchen during the war. There were many restaurants in my family. I can count 12 restaurants owned and run by 12 women. It was kind of our life, the restaurant business. It’s part of my DNA I guess,” he said.

Pépin came to New York in 1959 to work at the restaurant Le Pavillon, a Fifth Avenue restaurant that is said to have defined French food in the U.S. during this time. He worked with Chef Henri Soulé and Chef Pierre Franey, who lived in East Hampton for many years.

Soon after Pépin’s arrival, Craig Claiborne, food editor at the New York Times, introduced Pépin to food writer Helen McCully, who took him under her wing. It was McCully who introduced Pépin to Julia Child, sparking their friendship and working relationship.

Later, Howard Johnson, a regular at Le Pavillon, hired Pépin to work alongside Franey to develop food lines for his Howard Johnson’s restaurants.

Pépin has starred in numerous television shows. In 1999, he co-starred in the PBS series “Julia and Jacques Cooking At Home” with Child. The show was awarded an Emmy.

Pépin, who lives with his wife, Gloria, in Connecticut, was married on the East End. “That was 52 years ago, at Craig Claiborne’s house in East Hampton, when Craig took over food editor of the New York Times,” said the chef.

“I’m happy to go back there,” he continued. “Pierre Franey, who lived in East Hampton, was a very dear friend of mine. I worked with him for 12 years. I will meet his daughter there. I’m looking forward to it.”

Each year at the Chefs Dinner, the culinary community works together to create a tasting menu paired with remarkable wines. This year’s 10 chefs include Josh Capon of Lure Fishbar and Bowery Meat Company, Christian Mir of Stone Creek Inn, Ayesha Nardjaja of Shuka, Joe Realmuto of Nick & Toni’s, Hillary Sterling of Vic’s, Bill Telepan of Oceana, and Jason Weiner of Almond.

During the dinner there will be a conversation between chefs Eric Ripert and Pépin. This year, the dessert course, created by Claudia Fleming of North Fork Table & Inn, Jessica Craig of L’Artusi, and Francois Payard of Karvér, will be a dessert bar so guests can continue to mingle.

Pépin’s advice for aspiring chefs? “Not to go into the business to become famous. Go for the right reasons: that you’re making people happy, that you cook for love, because you like to please people,” he responded. “And if you do this, if you’re on time, if you’re clean, if you’re willing to work properly, any chef would want to take you.”

Passionate about teaching, Pépin serves as dean of special programs at The International Culinary Center, founded as the French Culinary Institute, in New York City. He has also received 24 James Beard Foundation awards.

The Chefs Dinner will raise financial aid for Hayground School, an inclusive, diverse school that incorporates an Edible Garden/Kitchen Science program into its curriculum.

For tickets and more info, visit www.haygroundchefsdinner.org.

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