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The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  7,939 ratings  ·  598 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.

We see young Jacques as a homesick six-year-old boy in war-ravaged F
Paperback, 318 pages
Published May 7th 2004 by Houghton Mifflin (first published April 1st 2003)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  7,939 ratings  ·  598 reviews

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Oct 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 13, 2010 rated it liked it
"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
Andrew Carr
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beguilingly plucky and optimistic memoir. Pepin has had an extraordinarily varied life. He takes you through wartime France, through the hidebound traditions of the best restaurants in Paris, life as Chef for the French President, working in mass fast food designing menus and freezer items, as a teacher, instructor and finally Celebrity TV chef.

Pepin is quick to praise and rare to criticise. He may be a very technically adept french chef, but this is not undertaken in the service of demonstrat
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
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
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Benjamin A Simerly
The book is a quick read but has a number of invaluable stories about earning a life the old-fashioned way; through hard work. Definitely worth the read, and probably re-read every once in a while.
Thomasin Propson
I was introduced to TV Jacques Pepin several years ago by my husband, who was tickled that a chef would provide the hint that you should pour some vinegar into your nearly-empty mustard bottle, shake, and use it over meat or salad greens (thereby reducing food waste and eating well seasoned food). We’ve continued to watch him on PBS over the years and picked up a cookbook or two of his. On a whim I grabbed this memoir from the library and was surprised to find myself enthralled by his early days ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
3 1/2 stars. Highly recommended. More stars if it was longer and a bit more detailed.

A long time ago Jacques Pepin started writing essays in the hopes that one day he would be able to put those things together into one story. This is the result. Some stories are funny, some sad, just like life.

Some things I hope to remember about this book are (sorry if you think these are spoilers): Stealing fruit with his brother. Maman's business acumen. Cooking in the French White House (and almost cooking
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Rita Ciresi
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars I loved this story about becoming a chef, told with so much heart and goodwill toward Pepin's family, friends, and co-workers. But reader beware: this memoir will make you hungry! My favorite sections dealt with Pepin's childhood in wartime France--I got a great sense of how hard it was to find food and make do during the Nazi occupation, and I admired his parents and all the adults who did their best to care for their children during this hard time. Another favorite part was learning ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book that details the life of an amazing chef! From day-to-day life of the French during WWII, training in French kitchens, coming to America, and becoming one of the teachers that decoded cooking...he tells of his own personal trials and successes. He has a message for both home cooks and self-entitled chefs to be humble, learn from a master, and do not think this career is going to make you a star. You need to do it because you cannot imagine doing anything else but cook!
Michelle Coleman
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I will start with a disclaimer that this review may be biased, but I cannot help but give this book a 5 star review. I was ready to give it 5 stars before opening the front cover. It encompasses two things I love, people and food - specifically a person I see as genuine, kind, loving, devoted, and good and his high energy passion for food from classical French cuisine to downhome foraging basics.

This book was like a hug from an old friend. Reading it with a glass of wine or cup of tea I felt th
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
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jacques Pepin is a treasure, and this book is pleasure to read. And entertaining, too!

This biography covers Pepin's incredible life. The stories are fun, sweet, and often dramatic.

The book includes recipes. I don't think anyone is reading this to get meal ideas, but they do serve to set the image of the sort of meals that Pepin's preparing. His notes for each recipe help set the stage, and it's nice to see how the food brings back memories of when and where he first cooked them.
Lee Mueller
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jacques Pepin proves to be a thoughtful and insightful human being in this memoir. There can be no doubt that his co-author Barry Estabrook is responsible for rendering this wonderful tale of a French chef’s life in entertaining English, but only Jacques Pepin could have lived the full and adventurous chef’s life so well depicted here. The interstitial recipes are irrelevant, save one or two. Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential is a hack job in comparison. Great read.
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly biased because I love cooking and love this man unconditionally. But from the perspective of literary merit, Pepin is one of the finest voices I’ve ever read and his memoir was nothing short of brilliant.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An engaging and endearing life story. I particularly loved it because I am a Francophile, but I think anyone interested in food will enjoy it.
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fun and direct overview of life from France in WWII , to being an apprentice in France, cooking for the French president, reinventing restaurant food in America and being a chef on TV in America.
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love food memoirs and I love Jaques Pepin. In this book he takes you from his early childhood, becoming an apprentice at age 13, all the way through to his older years.

Jaques' background in food is fascinating and his mother a remarkable woman. At one point they were so poor the kids were "farmed out" to the county where they could work on farms in exchange for food. But with sheer hard work and ingenuity Jaques mother started her own flourishing restaurant business.

These events had a direct
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a lot like what I imagine the author’s food is like - simple yet elegant, rich in detail but not fussy, and super delicious. A very interesting, likable man.
Seamus Thompson
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it

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
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
Shelves: memoir, foodie, lives
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
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Jacques Pépin is a French chef, television personality, and author working in the United States.

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You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
54 likes · 24 comments
“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.” 4 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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