Fans of chef Jacques Pépin will love this fun new look at chickens, art and travel

Iconic chef, cookery teacher extraordinaire, television and social media personality, prolific author and philanthropist, Jacques Pépin (87 next month) continues to amaze with his energy and artistry. The recent edition of his 31st book, Art of the Chicken: Paintings, Stories and Recipes of a Master Chef’s Humble Bird (published by Harvest Books, an imprint of William Morrow / HarperCollins Publishers), is already a best-seller. The 228-page hardcover — an engaging glimpse into Pépin’s successful life — serves up a treasure trove of chicken and egg recipes from around the world, described for readers not in standard ingredient list format, but rather as narratives, as if and Pépin is next to you, in your home, suggesting, as a friend might informally, how to cook a favorite dish, such as Arroz con Pollo or Southern Fried Chicken or Coq au Vin or The Very Best French Toast. In reading his written words, Pépin fans will also likely “hear” his soothing French-accented voice, which is very understandable from watching the KQED PBS-TV cooking series, as well as YouTube and Facebook videos. His essays, peppered with humorous and poignant anecdotes, illuminate Pepin’s leaps — from his childhood in France, helping his mother in his family’s small village restaurant, and then leaving home forever at age 13 to apprentice in strict kitchens of prestigious European restaurants. managing mind-blowing, eye-opening jobs such as French President Charles de Gaulle’s personal chef. and moves to the United States, furthering his award-winning career. However, the main focus that does this young What sets the book apart from all others is the inclusion, for the first time, of nearly 100 of Pépin’s paintings, some of which feature below. To check an attractive Forbes interview with him, go to Legendary chef Jacques Pépin, 86, on the joys of Thanksgiving, travel, helping others and not slowing down. If you are interested in owning a Pépin signed art print or original artwork, go here.

In Chicken artIn his introduction, Pépin writes: “I did not paint as much as I cooked, yet it is more than half a century ago that I picked up a brush instead of a knife and began to find creative fulfillment through another outlet. About fifty years ago, I started a tradition of writing and saving the dinner menus we had at home. I illustrated my menu with whimsical depictions of animals, flowers, fruits, vegetables, vines, landscapes. Only after I had acquired a thick stack of these memorabilia did I realize that an unusually high percentage of my drawings depicted chickens, often in comical, mischievous poses. I reimagined the birds parading like leeks, cabbages, pineapples, artichokes—wherever my brush took me. Again and again I ended up drawing chickens and they were an endless source of inspiration for me.” His resulting oil and acrylic canvases – expressive, perceptive, lively and playful – are certainly feathers in Pépin’s cap.

Chicken art unfolds 12 glowing chapters. Pepin starts first on the subject of the book: “Proust had his madeleine, I have chickens. As a chef, I am in awe of the humble bird’s contribution to global cuisine. As an artist, I admire the iridescent colors and varied beauty of its plumage. And the little boy in me still never tires of watching the social interactions and antics of chickens whether they’re pecking and scratching around American farms or on roadsides in developing countries. Whether I am in France, China, Italy, Spain, Africa, Mexico, Greece, Canada, or here in the United States, the crowing of a rooster at sunrise is a universal language that proclaims the triumph of light in the dark… [It] it captures something peaceful and comforting, like church bells ringing in the mornings in France. I wake up in a friendly world.”

Relax with amazing stories about his friendship with Julia Child and their hit TV show. Pépin and Child could never agree on the ideal way to roast a chicken, but they very much agreed that “one of the greatest pleasures in life is a perfectly roasted chicken served with deglazing sauce from the brown bits left in the pan . ” Other celebrity-rich chestnuts pepper the pages, like the amazing Best Chicken Salad, invented by famous actor and comedian Danny Kaye.

“I was born and raised in Bresse, an area about thirty-five miles northeast of Lyon,” says Pépin. “In France, Bresse is equally synonymous with it [its] delicious chickens…like bordeaux with good wine. Besides being delicious, the chickens in my area are beautiful creatures, large with striking blue legs, bright white feathers and bright red combs: blue, blanc, blush — the colors of the French flag.’

“Discovering new food helps you understand people, learn more about yourself and appreciate other cultures,” urges Pépin. “I have traveled the world, enjoying chicken recipes from America to Russia, from Italy to Africa. During my travels, I have always been amazed by the power of food to bring people together.”

“These recipes are meant to speak to your imagination, to the poet in you,” says Pépin. “This book aims to make you dream of succulent food, happy memories and the generosity of sharing your table…”.

Plenty of advice of all kinds is woven into the text. Regarding eggs (because how could he introduce a book about chickens and not include eggs?), Pépin recommends: “High-quality eggs from hens that are fed a good diet and are free to flap, run and they scratch, they deserve the top prices they command. I freely admit that I am usually something of a miser in the kitchen. My tightness comes both from being a child of the war years and from growing up in a restaurant run by my mother, who was able to make great dishes with few, meager ingredients. Organic is great, but I’ll buy organic if it’s fresh and only half or a third of the price. Likewise, except on special occasions, I tend to prefer wines that are young and priced under twenty dollars a bottle to an expensive grand cru. That said, if possible, don’t skimp when buying eggs. Buy the best quality organic eggs you can afford.”

“Cooking for someone is the purest expression of love, and sharing food with friends or strangers is a great equalizer,” affirms Pépin, embracing a particularly apt reminder for this Thanksgiving week.

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