When Jacques Pepin had to cancel his appearance at this show in 2011, I was disappointed. In my opinion, he is one of the more influential chefs of the last few decades, both for his partnership with Julia Child and his own elegant, restrained take on classical French food.
So I was glad to see him and his daughter, Claudine, at the MetroCooking Show last November at the Washington Convention Center. They did not disappoint, both cooperating on the cooking of a many-course meal. Jacques started on the chicken in vinegar and polenta with vegetables and mushrooms, while Claudine contributed most of the patter and audience interaction.
They has a stage set up in an enormous room, with a screen showing them and the cooking action so everyone could see. Fortunately, the show runners allowed the press to move closer to the stage to take pictures.
One lucky little girl, Payton, got to assist them.
While Jacques cooked, Claudine took questions from the audience. What is their opinion of the new crop of chefs? “We love them all!” What was Jacques’ inspiration for cooking? “I’m always hungry!” What is Jacques’ favorite thing to eat? “Free food!”
They finished the chicken and went on to potato and turnip puree. Jacques was asked if his family has cooking in its background? “There were seven restaurants in my family, all run by women.” How did you and Julia work out the process for your collaborative cooking show? The producers wanted them to cook for a certain amount of time for every show, but he and Julia told them, “We are going to cook, and when it’s finished, we’ll tell you!”
Jacques also cooked Eggs Jeanette, a devilled egg dish named for his mother. The recipe is available here. They finished up with dessert: fritters in beer batter. After the show, some folks milled around. Jacques left the hall (understandably tired by all the cooking), but Claudine stayed to talk, pose for pictures, thank the culinary students who had helped with the prep work, and sign jackets.
While the Pepins were the highlight of the show for me, they were far from the only chefs there. I missed the other high-powered stars at the Celebrity Theater, but I did manage to catch some of the other demos at the smaller stage on the show floor. They represented quite a variety of cooking styles and cuisines.
There were Bonnie Benwick and Tim Carmen of the Washington Post food section, cooking breakfast pupusas Americanas, a recipe from the new Washington Post Cookbook (reviewed here.)
Scott Drewno from the Source cooked dan-dan noodles with marinated pork belly. He showed off a really impressive knife he bought in Singapore. Tim liked it, too.
Francois Dionot of L’Academie de Cuisine demonstrated two dishes: garlic flan with eggplant soup, and panko-crusted salmon with mirepoix. When asked, what makes a dish taste good? he replied, “A balance of sweet, sour, bitter and salt tastes.” A universal principle, in my opinion.
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