I went a few weeks back to see Jacques Pépin speak and sign his new book, More Fast Food My Way, at the the Astor Center. It was really great. He had so many memorable things to say:
- The art of cooking is the art of adjustment, and sometimes, the art of recovery. My mom's the expert here. I've seen her recover so many dishes that I would've given up on. People got fed, they enjoyed it, and they were never the wiser.
- Never apologize and never explain. A motto he passed on from Julia Child. At most tables where you're setting down food, you know the most about how the dish should be. This goes double if it's a dish of your own creation. If you keep your self-criticisms to yourself, everyone has a better meal. If there's a fellow chef at table and you tell an out-and-out lie, a simple wink will suffice to keep them quiet. They'll expect the same discretion from you when they screw something up, though. (Again, my mom comes to mind... though she has never told a white lie to make her guests more comfortable, right, Mom? [wink])
I can't overstate how much of an influence this man has been on the way I cook. I think I'm not alone in saying that he elucidated a way of cooking at home that I had always though of, but hadn't trusted myself enough to do. He's a great force against pretentiousness in the food world and a national treasure.