Columbia Alumnus and World-Renowned Chef Jacques Pépin Is a Man of Many Talents – Columbia University

December 20, 2021 by No Comments

Last week, renowned chef Jacques Pépin (GS‘70, GSAS‘72) spoke to more than 250 students and alumni from across Columbia at a virtual event hosted by the School of General Studies (GS).

In An Evening with Jacques Pépin, Columbia GS Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch (GS’90) led a lively conversation that included highlights from Pépin’s favorite memories as a Columbia student, as well as what his favorite kitchen tools are, and advice he gives to aspiring chefs.

Pépin is a man of many talents beyond his skills in the kitchen—artist, author, TV host, culinary educator—and by trying so many different things throughout his long, diverse career, he never got bored. “I wrote a column once a week for 10 years for The New York Times. If I had to do it every day I probably would have gone crazy,” he said.

Some of the Happiest Years of His Life

Pépin spoke highly of his experiences at Columbia and how his education in America had an impact on his career. Though he admitted he had never heard of Columbia before arriving in New York, he soon learned that it was one of the greatest universities in the world. “In France, I left school when I was 13 years old—I never went to high school,” he said. “I had a good job in Paris, but I came for a year, and I came to study English.”

During his time studying English at Columbia GS, Pépin and his classmates—of all ages and from all backgrounds—would meet for coffee after each class and enjoy stimulating conversation. He remembers those years as some of the happiest in his life, and that positive experience was one of the reasons he decided to stay in America.

“My years at Columbia University changed me completely. I would have done OK, I’m sure, but I never would have done what I did without Columbia. It was the reason I stayed in America,” he said. 

Pépin is the recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from five American universities, was awarded France’s highest civilian honor, La Légion d’Honneur, and has received 16 James Beard Foundation Awards, among his long list of accolades. As for his favorite award of all of them? “My PhD from Columbia University.”

When asked about celebrity chefs today, Pépin described how his life had never been glamorous. “The cook was really at the bottom of the social scale. Any good mother would have wanted their child to marry a lawyer or a doctor, certainly not a cook.”

In 1960 when Pépin declined a role …….



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