As a homesick 6-year-old boy in war-ravaged France, Jacques works on a farm in exchange for food, dodging bombs, and bearing witness as German soldiers capture his father, a fighter in the Resistance. Soon Jacques is caught up in the hurly-burly action of his mother's cafe, where he proves a natural. He endures a literal trial by fire and works his way up the ladder in France's most famous restaurant, finally becoming Charles de Gaulle's personal chef. When he comes to America, he falls in with a small group of as-yet-unknown food lovers, including Craig Claiborne, James Beard, and Julia Child. The master of the American art of reinvention, Jacques goes on to earn a graduate degree from Columbia University, turn down a job as John F. Kennedy's chef to work at Howard Johnson's, and, after a near-fatal car accident, switch careers to become a charismatic leader in the revolution that changed the way Americans approached food.
The Apprentice is the poignant and sometimes funny tale of a boy's coming of age. It is also the story of America's culinary awakening and the transformation of food from an afterthought to a national preoccupation.
©2003 Jacques Pepin; (P)2003 Houghton Mifflin Company
"Fast-moving and often touching....[A] charming memoir." (Publishers Weekly)
"As one of the world's most celebrated chefs, Jacques Pepin has much to share when it comes to great food. However, this memoir is every bit as delicious as one of his finest recipes. Free of any pretension, complaint, or histrionics, Pepin's story recalls difficult times in war-torn France, fighting invaders and poverty with equal determination. Michel Chevalier offers a perfect voice for Pepin's anecdotes and memories, using his musical French accent to add just the right flavor. Any reader who loves food and a good story will enjoy listening to this memoir." (AudioFile)
Most of us were introduced to Jacques Pepin through Julia Child, where he often played her "second banana." Now we are able to hear his account of his rise through the culinary realm, which included rubbing shoulders with food big wigs such as James Beard and Craig Claiborne and world leaders such as Charles De Gaulle and Harold Macmillan. Through out this autobiography, Pepin shows great skills of observation as well as the ability to discern food snobbery from the love of food. The humble tone of his story is well mixed with a sly sense of humor.
I really enjoyed this book. I'm not not a serious foodie, don't watch cooking shows on tv, and really wasn't that familiar with Jacques Pepin. I do enjoy reading food biographies, though, and always vow to become a foodie when they are really good. This one was really good - highly enjoyable, good humored, and with enough sensory detail I wanted to head straight to a cook store after every chapter. The reader was really exceptional - I could believe he was Jacques Pepin, telling his own story. He never sounded like he was reading (save for the odd pauses punctuating the book throughout which I suspect are ends of lines or pages - but I got used to that). I have found that native English speaking actors in Audiio books - when called upon to use a French accent - often use extremely unpleasant and over-the-top interpretations. I've given up several audiobooks because of that. Michel Chevalier, who is the genuine article, should be required listening for anyone narrating an audiobook who wants to sound French, rather than like a French caricature.
Did you know that Jacques Pepin is largely responsible for a fact that we all take for granted now? That is, that one can expect to eat just about the same quality of food consistently in any of a chain of restaurants. That used to not be true.
Did you know that Pepin's father was in the french resistance?
Did you know that he was the soup guy before Seinfeld made soup restaurants famous with the "soup-nazi"?
Did you know that he proposed a PhD topic investigating the use of food in literature. And was turned down because food wasn't a "serious" enough topic (or so they said then).
I didn't either, but I do now. And many other interesting bits besides. I have loved Jacques Pepin since his days with Julia Child so I was probably predisposed to find the autobiography interesting. However, even I was pleasantly surprised by this life chronicle. And the narrator is wonderful. He has an unmistakable french accent but his English is very easy to understand and his pronunciation of the various french words (such as names of dishes, for example) adds a lovely flavor to the narration.
Male. Mammal. High school equivalency graduate. I like fruit and I just got a haircut. I would describe myself as somewhere between Christmas and being buried alive.
I bought this book for two reasons. First, I am a big fan of Jacques Pepin's cookbooks, his solo TV shows and especially his collaboration with his daughter in the TV program, Cooking with Chlodine. The second reason I bought it is that the reviews and ratings for this book, on both Amazon and Audible, were off the charts. Just take a look at Anthony Bourdain's review on Amazon and you will see what I mean. So far, so good, right? Wrong. This book is just okay. It is average, but not great. I found it boring. The story is rather formulaic; a poor boy from France makes it big in America. Been there and done that. One odd thing in the book is that Pepin had many interesting anecdotes that seemed to end rather abruptly, like a souffle that has suddenly fallen. Another thing that bothered me is that the book employed narrative passages that just are not that interesting to listen to. The book also seemed to lack a story arc. Having listened to this book and Julia Child's, My Life in France, I have to say I much preferred Julia Child's book. I buy and listen to a lot of audiobooks on Audible. My litmus test is very simple. I just ask myself, was I entertained? I have found entertainment in some very odd places in Audible (Jonathon Cecil's narration of the Jeeves canon, Simon Vance's narration of The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Grover Gardiner's narration of American Caesar; you get the idea). But frankly, this book was a disappointment and I think it is mostly due to mediocre writing and storytelling, boring narration (the narrator sounds like a robot with a slight french accent), and way too much hype (come on folks, you really think that this is a five star book?) from other reviewers (both professional and amateur). I do have one suggestion for the publisher. Why not have Jacques Pepin narrate the book himself? He has a charming french accent and I suspect that the book would at least seem more interesting and entertaining if he read his own story.
I had no idea what huge influences Jacques Pepin had on America's culinary culture. The book is well read, and Monsieur Pepin is really an amazing guy, but this is mostly just a fun reminiscence. His recollection of meals he cooked so many years ago is pretty amazing!
The book is excellent. The narrator fantastic. His French pronunciation is superb and adds measurably to the experience.
It was a respite and a drift back into time--as well as a reminder of just what is important. Touching, talented--- but not syrupy--just like Jacque!!!
A real treat of a book. A total immersion in the life of a French Chef and his eventual introduction to, and embrace of, America. Will be particularly interesting to foodies, but a wonderful story nonetheless.
I thought this book was fun and delicious! It is fascinating to hear about his experiences, what he went thru to become the master he is. I value Jacques Pepin's gift to the culinary world even more after this book.
This was a delightful autobiography that I enjoyed from start to finish. The early sections on his childhood are told with a sense of sustained innocent, despite the privations of the second World War. The entire story is told with honesty and humor. Read social commentary is also present-- from a call for more African-Americans as chefs (and a condemnation for our failure in that there aren't more), to the joys of real food and care and joy in it's preparation, to a philosophy on the feeding of children. Reports of his friendships with Julia Child, Howard Johnson, and other important figures are told with affection but also honesty. I was sorry when this book ended!
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