THE APPRENTICE: My Life in the Kitchen
In this fast-moving and often touching memoir, Pépin recounts his journey from the kitchen of his mother's humble restaurant in rural France after World War II to his current position as author of 21 cookbooks, star of 13 PBS cooking shows and dean of special programs at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. Along the way he describes everything from the tough French apprenticeship system that saw him dropping out of school at 13 to work in Lyon to the beginnings of the Howard Johnson's chain. Pépin accepted a job in the Howard Johnson's test kitchen over a stint at the White House cooking for John F. Kennedy , but shows no signs of regret. In fact, if there's a flaw here, it's that Pépin's eternally upbeat attitude is sometimes a little hard to buy—although he does seem to have been born under a lucky star. Pépin came to the U.S. just when a culinary culture was building and fell into friendships with Craig Claiborne, then food editor of the New York Times, and Julia Child. Even a bad car accident when he was 39 turned out to be a godsend, as it got him out of the restaurant kitchen and into the teaching profession. Pépin mines a lot of humor from the differences between French and American attitudes toward food, as when he recounts how he and a French friend once stopped by a farmsomewhere in the U.S. with a sign reading "Ducks for Sale" and wrung the neck of the duck they'd just bought in front of the horrified proprietress. Each chapter concludes with one or two recipes, many of them surprisingly earthy, such as Oatmeal Breakfast Soup with leeks and bacon. (Apr.)
Forecast:Pépin's is a strongly branded name, and fans of his books, television shows and classes are bound to be curious as to how he got to where he is. This charming memoir will not disappoint, and the tireless Pépin's 12-city tour is sure to attract plenty of readers.