While chef Jacques Pépin is best known for his cookbooks and television shows, it’s his foundation, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, that is putting his name to new and very good use. Led by Pépin’s daughter Claudine and her husband Rollie Wesen, The Jacques Pépin Foundation’s goal is to improve lives through culinary education with particular focus on helping economically disadvantaged adults, including veterans, the previously incarcerated and the homeless.
The foundation's programs come from Pépin’s inspirational love of cooking, mastery of classic technique and renowned teaching ability, as he’s demonstrated for years on shows like Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, which he hosted with Julia Child, and Essential Pépin, which featured the legendary chef cooking with both his daughter and son-in-law. The foundation hopes to infuse Jacques's teachings into existing culinary curricula around the country and help teach those who are most in need of jobs how to work in the kitchen.
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While The Jacques Pépin Foundation is still currently in its early stages–featuring a small team of Jacques himself, Claudine, Wesen and a handful of board members–it has made great progress through a mix of programming and events that the team has hosted so far.
For example, the foundation is currently working with the Community Kitchen at the Rhode Island Food Bank, where a 14-week, it offers a full-time course that teaches adults the job and life skills required to enter the food service workforce. Along with knife skills and those related to food safety, the foundation aims to teach communication, teamwork, organization and personal confidence—skills that Pépin and his team believe are critical to professional and lifelong success.
The foundation also hosted their first event this past April in Seattle with local organization FareStart, where the two partnered together to raise $270,000 for the foundation's new initiative on advanced culinary training. The Jacques Pépin Foundation's next big event, which will be held in New York, is planned for January 2018 and it will feature such guests as Andrew Zimmern, Marcus Samuelson and chefs from both the Thomas Keller Group and Union Square Hospitality.