Customer Reviews

32
4.9 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

113 of 119 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
`Chez Jacques, Traditions and Rituals of a Cook' by Cooking teacher extraordinare, Jacques Pepin is one of those culinary books for which foodie readers pray for, and celebrate when they arrive. As a veteran of very high end professional cooking in France (he was personal chef to French president Charles DeGaulle) and the United States; bourgeoisie American cooking as a research chef for Howard Johnson's; teacher to professional chefs at the French Culinary Institute and author of the very best manual of professional techniques available in English; and penultimate teacher to home cooks (second only to Julia Child) on his PBS cooking shows, Pepin may easily be the most important living teacher of cooking in America.

After all that gushing over Pepin's credentials, a brief word of warning is necessary. This is a far more important book on the teaching and the learning about how to cook and about the nature of cooking itself than it is a book of recipes. Thus, if you are reluctant to lie out a premium price for only 100 recipes, check out one of his many other books, especially the delightful `Fast Food My Way' or `Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home'.

One of the most endearing insights I get from Pepin's book is that there is simply no perfect way to write a recipe. There are only good approaches for all the various different cookbook audiences. Pepin's own example of this is his contrast between the 7,500 recipes in the `Repertory of Cooking', all of which consist of little more than a few statements giving the principle features of a dish and the recipes in Julia Child's classic `Mastering the Art of French Cooking', where 15 pages are devoted to the recipe for a French baguette (and I suspect that with all this instruction, it will still take the average amateur more than one try to get it right).

Another of the great validations I get from Monsieur Jacques is the notion that one does not start experiencing real satisfaction as a cook until you can cook without consulting a recipe. I have been working on the task of enjoying cooking for the last five years, and it seems slow in coming. I don't fully relish the task unless I am making a dish for which I have mastered all the steps and need no list of ingredients in front of me. It is at this point where, according to Pepin, we graduate from following instructions to the task of intently realizing a particular taste.

In these and most other regards, Pepin agrees with and even goes beyond the insights in my other favorite books on the nature of cooking, Tom Colicchio's `How to Think Like a Chef' and Daniel Boulud's `Letters to a Young Chef'. Other similar books are Eric Rippert's `Return to Cooking' and Michel Richard's recent `Happy in the Kitchen'. And, the same sentiments with an English accent are in Nigel Slater's `Kitchen Diaries'.

In spite of my warning about the price per recipe ratio, I do not want to give the impression that the recipes are in any way an afterthought or less valuable than Pepin's general ideas about cooking. In fact, virtually every recipe reveals some important insights about cooking in general and the dish in particular. In fact, I once classified recipes according to the Julia Child model, the Elizabeth David model, and the Joel Robuchon model. The first two of these Pepin cites himself (see above). But in this book, he actually writes the third kind of recipe, where the most important aspect is why we do certain things in a particular way. My favorite example is his recipe for the Gratin Dauphinois. I simply love potato gratins, yet I always seem to have some problem with them. Either the dairy ingredients curdle or the potatoes don't get cooked through, of both. Pepin's recipe explains virtually everything we need to know about how to avoid these problems.

Another dimension to Pepin's recipes is those which give entirely new twists to old standards. A chronic problem with clam chowders, for example is tough clams. Pepin's recipe for this dish literally throws the raw clams into the soup before serving, so they are in just long enough to warm up.

The bottom line on the recipes is that these are the dishes Jacques cooks at home, so they are neither fancy nor expensive, and all excellent candidates for dishes to commit to memory.

While this is a superb source of both recipes and culinary insights, it is also something of a memoir; although not quite as engaging as a memoir as Pepin's earlier book, `The Apprentice'. It is also something of a gallery of Pepin's own paintings, and this may be the book's Achilles heel. The paintings are virtually all amateurish, especially the larger oil canvases. The illustrated menus and the painted plates have some primitive interest since they have a connection with the art at which Pepin is a true master. Pepin has no illusions and is quite honest about the fact that he is a far, far better cook than he is an artist.

This book may not be for everyone who buys cookbooks, but for foodies who love to read about the craft of cooking, this is easily one of the most important recent works in the field.
33 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
More than a collection of recipes and description of techniques this book explains the creativity and personal history behind each recipe in entertaining and captivating vignettes. Useful as a traditional cookbook in recreating the dishes described, this book is also a pleasure to sit and read as a journal or personal history of one man's cooking career. The stories readily bring you into personal experiences and thoughts allowing you to enjoy the pleasure of the author existentially.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Leafing through this book is like sitting down and having a long conversation with Monsieur Pepin. His knowledge and charm are in every delightful story about how and why he loves a particular dish, from fried chicken to escargot, and the photography by Tom Hopkins is superb. Together they have created a coffee table book that you will want to have on your lap more than on your table... preferably with a glass of rose on the side. I highly, highly recommend this book.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Jacques Pepin needs no introduction to American cooking enthusiasts. He is probably the most well known TV cooking personality after Julia Child, not counting Emeril, who is probably better known as an entertainer to feedbag eaters who like to watch food being cooked than he is as a chef speaking about and showing cuisine to cooks who like cooking.

After living for over thirty years in the USA Pepin still radiates and personifies "French Chef" to many Americans. That more of his professional life has been spent in America than in France, and that his food has become a smooth hybrid of classical French and contemporary American sensibilities, and so would not be seen as really "French" by audiences in France, is beside the point. He brings, in every moment of his being, and in his approach to culture and life, a timeless French appreciation for not only the better but also the more genuine things in life.

Pepin's charm and indelible Frenchness are not his only assets. There are many charming people in the world, many of them French, presenting themselves smoothly all the time. What makes Pepin different is his biography and the singular grace, humility, good humor, common sense and perceptive understanding that he has shown in translating the essentials of the classical French cooking in which he was schooled into the world of the America that he immigrated to in the early 1960s.

That America, a food-industrial complex wasteland at the time, where home cooking was thought to be "woman's work" or lowly paid labor, and the foods available at grocery stores were depressing, austere, bland and, for the most part, overly processed by a food industry that had only recently turned from mass manufacturing rations for soldiers, was ripe for the encouragement and the example shown by the likes of Child, Beard and Pepin.

It's easy to dismiss Pepin as a TV chef, or his food as just "home cooking". But this book shows the richness of his background, the charm and warmth of his family and family story, the charm and rusticity of his many lovely amateur paintings, and the simple human joys of his lifestyle. It conveys, through several essays, his knowledge of food and food culture.

The dishes involved are not meant to be fine cuisine but instead everyday fare. That does not make them humble or ordinary. It makes them wonderful expressions of how to bring joy to the table with both everyday elements and a sensibility that appreciates and values that joy being brought to that table, for himself, for his family and for his friends. They are all well worth looking at, and this book, a handsome and lovely book that succeeds in a world of people trying to make lovely and handsome books, is well worth the price and worth having for the inspiration its author brings to the reader.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
When Jacques was on Emeril recently, they talked about his new book. I was not anxious for a coffee table book but when they said it contained his favorite recipes that he frequently makes at home, I had to have it. The recipes are delightful, the art is amazing (I had no idea he was such a great artist), and the very personal straight opinions are interesting and educational. A must have for anyone who enjoys Jacque's talent and instructional recipes. The book is beautifully done. Would make a great Christmas gift for anyone who loves to cook.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
If you know a serious French cook, I'm sure they know Jaques Pepin. The Book comes in a fabric covered box with gilded lettering. It's full of narrative about the recipes that are interspersed within the text. This is more a book about how the French and in particular Mr. Pepin live their lives with food as an intertwining and important part of life.

At the time I bought this book, Amazon had it at the bargain price of $30. I doubt I would have paid $100 or more for it sight unseen.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a mom of two young children I am very busy. The time for long elegant meals, taking my time in the kitchen are - well, on hold it seems.

Anyone who knows me knows I love and admire Jacques Pépin, so I bought this book. Disclaimer here: Jacques Pépin has been a culinary hero and I have several of his other books. He is a Master. His background is impressive and he is truly a skilled and amazing chef. He is not full of ego and pomp. Jacques Pépin, is a chef with a lifetime of training and techniques.

This book is somewhat different from his others -- I think this may be the most beautiful by far. It includes some of his paintings, there are also photographs of him cooking, collecting mushrooms, and fishing. That coupled with excerpts about his philosophy on food and life make it more interesting than just a cookbook. It has 100 recipes, yes -- but even more valuable for me, he reminded me how important it is to enjoy food.

In one section he writes:
"For me, the greatest taste may be a perfect crunchy baguette slathered generously with the very best sweet butter, and the greatest dessert (besides dark, bitter chocolate) may be a succulent apricot or strawberry jams made with very ripe fruits and spread thickly on pieces of warm brioche. My favorite ritual is sitting every night at the dining-room table with my wife and sharing our meal and one, sometimes two bottles of wine and discussing the events of the day. Throughout the last four decades, this daily ritual has been ingrained so profoundly within us that we could not live without it."

What can I say? It inspired me. I needed a nudge back "in" the kitchen and this book did that for me. The recipes are simple and not too difficult. A busy mom even has time to try a thing or two. The recipe for Saucisson of pork tenderloin is as simple as can be, but when Pepin says he dicovered it at a market in Provence I think I have found a culinary gem. I want to try it soon.

We recently harvested red cabbage from the garden. I have been at a loss at what to do with it. I have sautéed it with olive oil, Dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar, which I love. I also sliced it thinly at put it in a salad. But when I browsed through the book I was excited to see something simple and delicious to try: red cabbage salad with anchoïde dressing. Jacques handwriting at the bottom of the page says: cabbage and anchoïde is your standard French coleslaw. It is basically red cabbage with a garlic anchovy dressing. You probably either love or hate anchovies but there is no disputing it, anchovies really adds a new dimension to the food it is combined with. The recipe is basic and simple, as are alot of the others in the book. But that is great. They are not too intimidating and fit with a busy lifestyle.

I am enjoying the book and the photos, insights into life with good food. It is beautiful enough to place in the center of your living room for all to admire.

If you want to read more about my adventures with food and kids you can find me at [...]
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is just what a real chef or home cook should read. Jacques's insight as to how recipes happen and the outcome of them is fascinating and sooooooooo true! They should be personal adaptations of the written recipe. Except when baking, there is plenty of room for creativity. Even in baking, one can be creative if they follow the basic rules and substitute favorite flavors of fruit, nuts, extracts. You'll only like it more. This book gives you room to make his favorites......your favorites. Wonderful ideas abound here. I want to try all of the recipes in the book. The narrative warms your heart and you feel like he wrote this book especially for you.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook

This a a beautifully and artfully written and illustrated book. It is perfect for the home cook who loves to read a cookbook from cover to cover as if it were a novel, but it is also full of great recipes. If you are a fan of Jacques Pepin, as I am, you will see this as an intimate portrait of his life. This is one cookbook you will leave on the coffee table, as opposed to putting on the book shelf!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is a beautiful book. If you are a Jacques admirer this one you must have. Not only is it a top notch cookbook it is a picture book with lots of good stories.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed

Jacques Pépin New Complete Techniques
Jacques Pépin New Complete Techniques by Jacques Pepin (Hardcover - November 13, 2012)
$28.92

Fast Food My Way
Fast Food My Way by Ben Fink (Hardcover - September 1, 2004)
$22.50
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.