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An Ode to a Favorite Fowl

This fall, renowned chef and 16-time James Beard Award winner Jacques Pépin serves up an appreciation of a dinnertime staple in his new book, Jacques Pépin Art of the Chicken: A Master Chef’s Paintings, Stories, and Recipes of the Humble Bird. “Proust had his madeleline, I have chickens,” writes Pépin.

“About 50 years ago, we started keeping a book of menus detailing what we ate when we would have guests over for dinner, or even special occasion meals at home with just the family,” says Pépin of what inspired him to write the book, which debuts on September 27. “I would illustrate the borders of the menu and noticed that very often I tended to draw chickens, and this led me to many, many paintings of the wonderful bird—some serious, some fanciful—and it began a kind of love story with drawing and painting them. This book began as a way of sharing my art, and developed into a mix of paintings, stories and recipes.”

Along with the beautiful artwork, you’ll find stories from throughout his life. In one chapter, he talks about his friendship with Julia Child, and in another, about moving to the U.S. He takes readers through his journey as a chef, like his decision not to become JFK’s White House chef and opting instead to work for the quintessential American hotel and restaurant chain Howard Johnson’s. Of course, there are recipes as well, including Maman’s egg gratinée, arroz con pollo, and chicken bouillabaisse.

“It is probably most similar to my memoir The Apprentice because it includes stories about my past,” explains Pépin. “It does have recipes, but they are told in a conversational way, and many of them are dishes you would never make at home. I wanted to go this route because first and foremost I wanted to share my art and my love of chickens with readers.”

Ultimately, he hopes his book gives his readers joy. “I hope readers will get enjoyment, of course, and that they will learn something new about how wonderful and versatile chickens are,” he says.

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