April 25, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Apprentice: My Life In The Kitchen

Current Status
In Season
Jacques Pepin
We gave it a B+

We know this TV fixture as a maestro of French food and the author of 20-plus cookbooks. But picture Pepin in shorts and kneesocks, a 100-pound weakling intimidated by a stove. Alas, all great cooks must start somewhere. Pepin began as a 13-year-old apprentice at Le Grand Hotel de l’Europe near Lyon, a three-year tour de cuisine that earned him the checkered pants of a real chef. And though he shares colorful memories of cooking for Charles de Gaulle and lunching with Julia Child, he reserves the most affection for his maman, Jeanne, a restaurateur in their native Bourg-en-Bresse. (He includes her apple tart recipe, among other deceptively simple, hearty dishes like onion soup gratinee.) In turn, Pepin has passed on his culinary passion to his daughter, Claudine, to whom he served beluga before she could walk. Finally, an apprentice of his own.

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