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The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  6,594 Ratings  ·  489 Reviews
In this captivating memoir, the man whom Julia Child has called "the best chef in America" tells the story of his rise from a frightened apprentice in an exacting Old World kitchen to an Emmy Award-winning superstar who taught millions of Americans how to cook and shaped the nation's tastes in the bargain.
As a homesick boy in war-ravaged France, Jacques works on a farm in
Audio CD, 10 pages
Published April 10th 2003 by Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published April 1st 2003)
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Oct 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With all the literary giants cramming my bookshelf, it's surprising how much pleasure can be had from reading a book such as this one. This was a wonderful (and wonderfully written) book about a humble yet extremely accomplished man. Jacques is my new hero. He is highly skilled, hard working, charming, and possesses that simple, ageless kind of wisdom that Americans almost never seem to acquire. In addition to being a great cook and skilled technician, he is a kind of Zelig of the culinary world ...more
Apr 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone familiar with the name of Jacques Pépin
Gregarious, devoted to family, an avid skier, and a student of French literature who once considered an academic career are not the traits one might associate with one of the most well-known and influential contemporary American chefs. However, these are some of the surprising qualities to be found in Jacques Pépin.

As a child he experienced the privations of World War II. He was a locavore long before the term even existed. During the summer he was sent to the Lyon countryside as farm labor in
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foodie-books
actually read The Apprentice last year, after picking up the book at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Napa Valley while on vacation. Both Roy and I read it, and both loved it. I have always liked Jacque Pepin’s TV shows (most memorable moment was when he was fixing some giblet dish, and for the liver, he said in his French accent “this, you feed to the dog”). He is one of those people who has had an amazing talent, and has picked his course in life, not just going the direction that tr ...more
Bill Keefe
"How can you not like Jacques Pepin?" would be an admirable alternative title for this warm, personal story about a life well lived and a career in a field that fascinates many of us - (especially me!). Mr. Pepin mixes stories of cooking with glimpses into the lives of the rich, the famous and the accomplished people he meets and befriends as he plies his career these many years. He takes us mushroom hunting, cuts up rabbits, stokes oven fires, enthusiastically clears a California beach of snail ...more
Review Excerpt:

I was given a paperback copy of The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin several years ago from a foodie friend and loved this memoir and learning about his story. Coming across my copy a few months ago, I was inspired to read it again and to make it my pick for this round of Cook the Books. My second reading confirmed two things--I adore Pépin even more, and that this book is one of my favorite all-time foodie memoirs. Beginning with Pépin's youth in France working
Tejas Janet
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before reading his autobiography, I thought Jacques Pepin seemed like a really nice guy who knew his way around the kitchen. He was that classically-trained, nice guy with the appealing french accent on television cooking shows on PBS. The story of his life that unfolds in the pages here reinforces this view, but deepens and broadens it greatly. Get this straight: He's not just a nice guy. He's a nice guy who has worked with great discipline to not only succeed in his chosen occupation as a chef ...more
Tatjana Dzambazova
This book is a real treat! i read it in a single breath; within one single day not moving from a sofa with a view of snowy mountains. You don't have to be a cook or love cooking to enjoy this book - the journey Pepin takes us on is filled with stories about serendipity in life and is sprinkled with a lot of humor. It starts in his childhood, a France during the WWII and ends today, in the glorious United States of America :). Life stories and anecdotes told in a simple yet engaging way. Clash or ...more
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mommy-s-shelf
I enjoyed reading this book and would like to give it 3.5 stars. The first 2/3 of the book really grabbed my attention and I enjoyed reading about the life of one of my favorite TV chefs, Jacques Pepin. However I thought the book lacked insight into his personal thoughts and life experiences. Important things like did he have any romances before his wife were absent. He also doesn't speak much about his life as a father. (And of course the book was published before his granddaughter was born, so ...more
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Jacques Pepin even though I cannot boil water without burning it. He's an amazing chef, and I always thought of him as personable, talented, professional, and really engaging. He has several shows on PBS in the US which are quite good. I thought I would be reading an autobiography of someone who was a chef who then got a TV show. I could not have been more wrong. Pepin does an excellent job of writing about life during World War 2 where he learned to gather ingredients and cook on a farm ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This man can do no wrong. A beautiful, lively memoir of an incredible life of cooking, eating, and loving.
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
This is one of the most engaging memoirs I have read in a long time. I didn’t know anything about Jacques Pepin’s personal life, his childhood or training in the culinary industry. After reading this book I know so much about him and enjoyed each and every chapter. The funniest story, ok it was a little gross too, was about the calf’s heads. Actually there were many amusing stories in this book so it’s hard to pick just one.

Sometimes memoirs can be dry, a bit on the boring side. Not this one. I
Seamus Thompson
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

One of my heroes. The most democratic of celebrity chefs, Pepin was formally trained in France before moving to the US where he has lived for the last forty years. His cookbooks and cooking shows are characterized by a love of simple, unpretentious dishes made with high quality ingredients.

His memoir is exactly what I had hoped: a straightforward recollection of his life as a cook in restaurants, at home, in test kitchens, on TV, and in the classroom. It is clear that Pepin has a puckish sense o
Mar 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a fan of Jacques Pepin, from what I know about him. I have one of his cookbooks, and I use it a lot, because his recipes are unpretentious, easy, accessible, and they work. And they taste good!

However, other than his enjoyable instruction style, I didn't know much about him. So it was interesting to read how he came of age in the 40's and 50's, left school at the age of 13 and went straight into learning from classically trained French chefs in the kitchen after working in his mother's resta
Jan 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foodie, lives, memoir
Pepin writes engagingly in this memoir of his years coming up in the kitchens of France. Pepin has an unpretentious approach to food, and a love of easygoing American manners and palates. It is a cliche perhaps that immigrants to America are the strongest adherents to the principles of democracy, but in this case, it's true. Pepin revels in each break from tradition he can make here. He loves that American eaters are flexible and willing to eat just about anything that tastes good, where French ...more
May 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jacques Pepin seems like the kind of man you'd want to know. I loved reading about his childhood in the kitchen, the kinds of meals he'd eat with his family in France, and his stumbling into some amazing jobs—cooking for the presidents of France (with great tidbits about Charles DeGaulle) and devleoping meus and food operations for the Howard Johnson restaurants, of all things! Seriously, who knew?

Loved that he chose to pursue formal education after dropping out school at 13—not unusual for chef
Mar 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are a foodie and / or love to cook, you will probably like this book. It's a wonderful, easy, breezy read. Pepin's persona is warm, humble, and down-to-earth. You move through his life story along a mostly delightful string of anecdotes -- his culinary adolescence under his frugal and determined mother, his apprenticeship in the grunt-breaking kitchen hierarchy and apprentice / chef system in France, his serendipitous move to NYC, and his rise from unknown chef to television star and hous ...more
May 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star
A charming memoir told in a series of selected stories and humorous anecdotes, with recipes sprinkled in between. Chef Pepin is really likeable, down-to-earth, and unpretentious about food. I loved the stories about his family, growing up in France with his two brothers and cooking in his mother’s restaurant. I was amazed to learn that he was personal chef to President de Gaulle, and worked in the test kitchen for Howard Johnson’s when he came to the U.S. Most interesting were his observations o ...more
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Pepin has an easy often humorous storytelling ability. Each chapter covers a part of his journey through cooking beginning in childhood. Each section ends with a recipe or two from that part of his life. He doesn't get too deep in certain areas but I think you get a good feel for how he got to where he is. He seems like a good and modest man with a deep interest and appreciation for food and cuisine. I would definitely read more from him.

The only thing keeping this fr
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jacques Pepin writes with humor and clear passion for his subject. This terrific memoir follows him from his childhood, toiling with his family in a series of bistros, to his apprenticeship in France -- leading to stints cooking for DeGaulle and several other French leaders -- and his emigration to America. Fascinating read for anyone interested in following the evolution of American cuisine from the "gastronomic wasteland" Pepin first encountered through the horrors of nouvelle cuisine to the c ...more
Nov 01, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Foodies
Recommended to Sarah by: Jennifer Lin
Really lovely book - I immediately wanted to run away to Paris and train as a chef's apprentice. It's amazing to me that many of my European friends have never heard of him - to me, he's France's most popular chef! Loved the dish on Julia Child, the NY Times Food Reviewer, and the descriptions of all the good dinner parties and fun. I love the photo of all the manly french chefs shirtless preparing their feasts. I made a few of the recipes and they were delightful.

I feel like I"m going to miss
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This autobiography tells the story of Jacques Pepin, the famous chef from TV and author of many cookbooks. He tallks about the small restaurant his mom ran when he was a boy in France, and gives recipes for some of the foods that were very important in his life.

He explains how people in France learn to be professional chefs, and what it was like to come to the USA as an adult not knowing any English.

He discussed how restaurants such as Howard Johnson's develop new items for their menus. He also
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating tale, well told, from a man I recall watching on PBS cooking shows when I was growing up. And who was, to my mind at least, the most famous person living in our town. I never ran into him at Stop and Shop (yet!) but I know people who have. His career trajectory seems improbable, a series of "eh, why not?" decisions that led him to cook for heads of state, and for the masses in America, after leaving home at 13 to apprentice in a restaurant.
Jan 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent autobiography about Jacques Pepin, renowned French chef. He was the son of a poor French family. Worked as an apprentice as a teenager. Moved to America, got his degree, got married, became famous. Pepin worked with Julia Child and many other celebrated chefs. Several of his recipes are included in the book.
Pepin is a true gent. A mensch. You can't help but admire him and all he has accomplished and overcome in his life. The beginning of the book is especially good but then he kind of skims over the surface of the rest of his life. I'm excited to try a few of the recipes. A good memoir but unsatisfying -- can't help but feel he's holding back.
Really quick read - fascinating experiences, interesting recipes. Particularly enjoyed the frugal recipes from the very lean war years. Restaurant cooking is extremely hard work, no matter how you slice it!
Buzz H.
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cookbook, biography
This is an excellent memoir--well written and enjoyable. M. Pepin is an engaging, jovial, and modest gentleman who grew up in occupied France during WWII. He then learned his profession in the old French kitchen apprenticeship system. That was a fascinating read. I recommend the book.
Nov 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. I have always loved Jacques Pepin's shows and cookbooks. But this book shows what a fascinating life he has led and how much influence he has had on the culinary revolutions of the past several decades.
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun and easy read. A real must for foodies, Jacques has an amazing food pedigree, he's not your run of the mill TV chef, he's the real deal.
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hoped for a more revealing look at his relationships with other chefs. A "safe" memoir.
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars

Book Club read. I read this back when it came out in 2002. Amazing what you can forget in 12 years! Can't really remember how well I liked it then, but I very much enjoyed it this time.
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Jacques Pépin is a French chef, television personality, and author working in the United States.
More about Jacques Pépin...
“Fortunately, I knew the cardinal rule of getting on with one’s fellow cooks. It applies in any kitchen and can be summed up in two short words: bust ass. Restaurant kitchens are the ultimate levelers. When you’re slammed and orders are starting to back up, you could care less about the color of the hands of the cook who is working next to you, as long as they are moving fast and effectively. Personal life, sexual preferences, accent, addictions, criminal record—none of them matter. Conversely, if he isn’t holding up his end, he could be your blood brother and you’d fire him in a second. That I had been chef at the “French White House” didn’t mean anything to these HoJo line chefs.” 3 likes
“a couple of our buddies from Le Pavilion had opened restaurants in the Catskills around Shan-daken and Hunter Mountain and spoke highly of the area, so Jean-Claude and I, along with a few other friends, rented a place there to use as a weekend retreat.” 1 likes
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