When Jacques Pépin debuted his first TV series in 1982, he introduced America to simple, unpretentious, utterly delicious French dishes.
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I taped my first series for PBS in 1982 at WJCT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida. The show, called Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pépin, was about saving time and money in the kitchen—and it was a celebration of simple and unpretentious food. Many of the recipes were for old-fashioned dishes that my mother and grandmother prepared for my brothers and me when we were growing up in Bourg-en-Bresse, France—quick sautés, hearty stews and soups, terrific salads and meat­balls made from leftover roasts.

I put the shows together on a shoestring with my staff of two—my wife, Gloria, and our good friend Gloria Zimmerman. We were assisted by Mimi Kersun, who would take us to shop at local markets. When we returned to the studio, we would just start shooting, with almost no scripting. It was truly a cuisine d’opportunité—prepared on the spur of the moment—and it captured my idea of what food is really all about. My goal was to make viewers realize that they can prepare wonderful dishes from staples and that leftovers can be thoroughly reimagined.

The recipes we showcased on TV, and in the companion book that came out the same year, are perhaps more a part of me than those in any of my other early books. I still cook from that book regularly, and many of my friends do, too. The recipes are crowd-pleasers and they’re still timely and satisfying, even 25 years later. I hope you will try them as well.

25 Years on Television

Since 1982’s Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pépin, Pépin has hosted 10 more cooking shows, all produced by the San Francisco PBS affiliate, KQED-TV. His next series, Fast Food My Way 2, will begin airing in 2008.

Go to foodandwine.com/pepin to see clips from Jacques Pépin’s latest show, Fast Food My Way.