Saturday, July 02, 2005

Happy Cooking!

Jacques Pepin is a happy chef.

And for good reason.

At a young age, he was the personal chef to three French heads of state, including Monsieur Charles de Gaulle, himself.

Later on, he worked at New York's historic Le Pavillon restaurant.

Now, with decades of masterful cooking behind him, he is one of America's best-known chefs, food columnists, cookbook authors, and cooking teachers, appearing often on public television, where I watch his shows avidly like the food groupie I am.

But as I watch his shows more and more, I'm beginning to wonder if Jacques is happy for an entirely different reason.

Jacques, like any good French cook worth his weight in herbs d'Provence, adds a lot of wine to his dishes and always caps off his show with wine suggestions for the meals he cooks.

But once, I saw him pour some red wine in a skillet to braise pork chops and then proceed to pour that same red wine into a goblet for himself, saying, in his thick French accent "Ah, why should we save it only for the cooking?"

And another time, while he was making the final garnishes on a plate of seafood linguine, he poured himself a glass of white wine and relayed to the cameras, "Master chefs say that you should never serve wine with seafood pastas, but they are wrong. Wine is always good. Wine goes with everything. Even it is good on its own." And then he took a big swig from his glass, contemplated putting the glass down, and then quickly took another swig.

But perhaps most telling, is when he showed the audience how to pour champagne straight from the bottle. "You want to pour once and then again," he explained as he poured the sparkly liquid to demonstrate. "The first time, you have a lot of bubbles. After they settle, you pour again." And then, with a sparkle in his own eyes, he added, "and again...and again...and again..." Hmmmm. Ok Jacques. I think you've had enough.

Jacques, like all PBS chefs, ends every show with a little sign-off. Daisy Martinez says, "Buen Provecho." Ming, being the Asian fusion chef that he is, says, "Peace and good eats." And Julia Child ends with the classic, "Bon Apetit!"

Jacques ends with "Happy Cooking!" And now, I'm beginning to see why.

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