Jacques Pépin: Notes to a Young Chef

Eat out well, work with someone you admire, say "yes chef" and don't complicate it. Jacques Pépin offers advice to all new chefs.

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[MUSIC] For a young chef you have to extend your palette. Not only working a kitchen but working with good chef And spending money to go to good restaurants. I know it's expensive, but it's necessary. You will be surprised how it is different for you to have that piece of meat with a bit of sauce around it that you do in the kitchen and you taste it. When you sit down in that dining room with that same piece of meat with the same amount of sauce you say, that's not enough sauce or it's too much sauce or whatever. You change, you are not the cook all of a sudden. You are the receiver. On the other end. So you do have to experience this. You will find out that there are certain type of a chef which are closer to your own sense of aesthetic, to your own sense of taste. You can't escape yourself. At some point if you were to take me to the ten greatest restaurant in the world I will take three, four of them, maybe I will say those are absolutely extraordinary. Another three, four, I will say those are really, really very good. And a couple of them, I would say yeah, it was great, but I don't really get it. What am I saying? It's a purely a narcissistic reflection on my own taste. You know because those coincide exactly with my sense of taste, my sense of aesthetics so they are they greatest and that you cannot escape. At some point, you can, you know, other chefs or a food critic, you can be objective and know that it is done well but ultimately your taste will take you somewhere where something will coincide exactly with who you are. It is interesting. Especially with young chef's now. It's totally different than it used to be. It used to be that you are to conform. That is, if I sit down, you put something on my eyes. You give me the [UNKNOWN] in New York, that is the [UNKNOWN] from the [UNKNOWN] From the Plaza Athénée in Paris. You remember the memory of those dish that you learned through repeat, repeat and repeat. And the idea in the kitchen at the Plaza Athénée in Paris we were 45 chefs where you would not have known who had done that lobster soufflé. So the idea was to conform. Did exactly the opposite now. The idea with that, make sure that I sign that dish Make sure you know I did and all that. It's a very different approach to food that we have now and for a young chef, you hope to work with someone you admire, hopefully. But the chef is not going to ask you your opinion, certainly not at the beginning. So all you have to say is yes chef. Don't complicate it. And what you have to try to do is to see the food through his eye, through his sense of esthetic, through his sense of taste. And you learn and you learn and this way. For a year and a half, two years, you do that with that chef. Then you do that with another chef. Then you do that with a third one. Seven, eight years like this you've absorbed an enormous amount of material. Now, you're going to give that material back but you're going to transfer it. You're going to filter it through your sense of [UNKNOWN], through your sense of taste. Now is that time when you start creating your own stuff. I go at Boston University. And I do sometimes with the student the perfect meal. I do a roast chicken, a boiled potato and a salad. The salad has to be done exactly like that. The Boston [UNKNOWN] wash the right way, drain the right way, the proper temperature of the salad. A beautiful olive oil, a little bit of the fat from the chicken, a dash of this too, mixed at the right moment. The potato have to be cook, drain, re-dry on the stove, a piece of butter on top of it. Chicken have to be basted, too. It's very simple. Then they go to the stove with the same ingredient and they have to duplicate that. And I always say, don't try to blow my mind and be imaginative or whatever. Because you want to be different than the other one, but the irony that you are different. And we'll have ten different chicken today. So this is ironic in the sense that you want to be different than the other, but you are. You don't have to torture yourself to be. Cook with your guts and you will be different because you cannot be someone else.
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Jacques Pépin: Notes to a Young Chef