I met Jacques Pépin about nine years ago, soon after I became editor of F&W. I was new to the food world and wanted to get to know our contributors. Overcoming some anxiety—He was a TV star! He'd cooked for three French presidents! I didn't know a croquembouche from a cocotte!—I invited him to dinner.
The evening went pretty well, so about six months later, I invited Jacques out again. The day before, he called to say he would be bringing his best friend, Jean-Claude Szurdak. Was he worried he'd be bored? Had he forgotten about our plan and double booked? Later I learned that Jacques and Claude (as Jacques calls him) go pretty much everywhere together, particularly when Jacques's smart, independent-minded wife, Gloria, doesn't want to accompany him.
Since then I've spent time with the two men in at least three states. Whenever I'd see them, I'd beg (yes, beg) for a chance to capture the spirit of their unique relationship for the magazine. Jacques and Jean-Claude finally relented: They were planning to go to Aspen to teach, ski and cook, and they agreed to let F&W tag along for what would surely be a great time. "We have fun," Jean-Claude joked, with a straight face, "if I do what he tells me to do."