When Chef Roland Passot informed his kitchen recently that none other than his longtime friend Jacques Pepin had just made a reservation for dinner that night at La Folie in San Francisco, his young cooks flew into a tizzy. They were disappointed that they didn’t get the news sooner so that they could have brought in their books for him to sign. As it is, a few intrepid cooks ran out to the store on their break to buy Pepin’s cookbooks just for the chance to get them autographed that night.
Such is the appeal and admiration of the renowned Jacques Pepin — Emmy Award- and James Beard Award-winning chef and former personal chef of French President Charles DeGaulle — who for generations has proved an inspired teacher not only to home cooks but to countless professional chefs.
Last month, I caught up with Pepin, who left his home in Connecticut to spend most of October in San Francisco, filming his 14th — and final — cooking series, “Jacques Pepin: Heart & Soul.” It will air next fall and include a companion cookbook.
The show will reflect on his more than 60 years in the kitchen, and feature him cooking with his daughter Claudine, and 10-year-old grand-daughter Shorey Wesen.
The KQED set, where almost all his shows have been filmed, was even decked out with some of Pepin’s original watercolor paintings.
“Heart & Soul’’ also will include a special pledge night at Farallon, where Pepin celebrates his 80th birthday (albeit early, as he won’t turn 80 until December 2015) with fellow PBS stars Lidia Bastianich, Rick Bayless and Ming Tsai.
I had a chance to attend an afternoon taping, when Pepin was on set with his grand-daughter, making chocolate truffles, chocolate pistachio biscotti, rhubarb honey compote and other simple desserts.
Unlike his equally famous sidekick, Julia Child, Pepin has never cut himself during filming. Nor has he ever been nervous in front of the camera.
“I have cut myself — but not on TV,” he says. “I may have burned myself, but not so much as to stop the show. Cooking is the art of recovery. You just keep going.’’
Read why he’s decided that this series will be his last, what he thinks of social media, what cooking shows he watches, and how Martin Yan helped him get his first series on KQED. You’ll find all that and more in my story in this past Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle Food + Home section.