No one does it like French chef Jacques Pépin. And it’s no surprise that throughout his entire tenure as a culinary great, he remains one of the brightest food stars to ever exist, continuously finding a way to shine even brighter generation after generation. From being born in a small French village to winning a James Beard Award alongside his dear friend Julia Child, here’s a look back at some of the most memorable moments and milestones of Pépin’s impressive culinary career.
1935: Born in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, a small village near Lyon. After World War II, his parents open the restaurant Le Pélican, where his love of cooking starts.
1948: Leaves home at 13 to start an apprenticeship at nearby Grand Hôtel de l’Europe. Three years later, goes on to work in Paris, including Plaza Athénée.
1956: Serves in the French military, where he’s recognized for his culinary training, eventually becoming the personal chef to President Charles de Gaulle.
1959: Moves to the United States to work at New York City’s Le Pavillon. Befriends New York Times Food Editor Craig Claiborne and chef/ TV personality James Beard.
1961: Turns down invitation from President John F. Kennedy to work as the White House chef and instead accepts a job as director of research and development at Howard Johnson’s restaurants.
1966: Marries Gloria Evelyn Augier, who he met while working as a ski instructor when she booked a private lesson with him.
1970: Opens specialty soup restaurant La Potagerie in Manhattan. Earns his bachelor’s degree in general studies at Columbia, then two years later his master’s in French literature, also from Columbia.
1974: While driving, strikes a deer and is seriously hurt, fracturing multiple bones in his back, pelvis and arms. Because of these injuries, decides to shift his attention to writing, teaching and TV.
1976: Authors the landmark cookbook La Technique, which uses thousands of photos to definitively illustrate classic cooking techniques. It’s followed by the companion book, La Methode, in 1979.
1982: Becomes dean of the newly formed French Culinary Institute in New York City (today the International Culinary Center). Also films his first PBS series, Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pépin.
1999: Costars alongside Julia Child in the iconic PBS TV show Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, which goes on to win a Daytime Emmy and a James Beard Award.
2004: Receives France’s highest order, the Légion d’Honneur, adding to his existing accolades of Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole and Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
2016: Establishes the Jacques Pépin Foundation to provide free culinary training to people with barriers to employment such as homelessness or previous incarceration.
2023: Continues to write and film online cooking tutorials while also teaching at Boston University and the International Culinary Center as well as serving as executive culinary director of Oceania Cruises.