After 20 years on TV, Chef Pepin has become one of Univision's most beloved stars. Here he spills the beans on what started him in the business and what any Latina who missed the cocina connection can do to improve their cooking!
What made you first want to become a Chef?
Well, I was a chef from birth, because I was born hungry! (laughs) And when you’re hungry you better know how to cook! From a very early age I used to hang out in the kitchen and try out a lot of different things. My grandmother and grandfather had a farm and they used to make all sorts of sausages and cheese... So you know that’s how I started. I learned how to make butter and cheese when I was 4 years old. I went to live my Aunt and Uncle at age 5 and cooking was a main focus of our daily lives. I came here to the US when I was 12 and started working at the Marina in the kitchen when I was 14 years old.
Did you have any formal training or are you completely self taught?
I was self-taught, but you know I have been on TV for almost 20 years. For about 5 years before that I had opportunities to cook with the best and most famous chefs in the world. You know, when you do this day in and day out it’s almost like school. Today, I was doing Piolin por la Mañana, and every week we do a new cooking segment and every time I always have to do a lot of research. I was macrobiotic for 2 years and have tried just about every single freaking diet in the world from vegetarian to anything you can think of! It’s just a matter of time and practice, by now I’m an expert.
What advice would you have for any Latinas who may not be so gifted in the kitchen?
Well, on my new website chefpepin.com I’ll have Cooking 101, and if there is a panic in the kitchen we’ll have Chef Pepin 911! It should be launching very soon. If you don’t like to cook, and you don’t like to be in the kitchen then you should probably really just make a reservation! But if you really want to endeavor into the kitchen and just don;t have the skills there is so much out there, you can check the internet, the television, there are so many places. The main thing is that you can just follow a recipe, but before you start cooking you should read the recipe from top to bottom and then try to visualize how it should come out, visualize the steps. This will help you realize if it is well written or if there is something missing. Don’t just start cooking without knowing what you are getting into!
Do you cook everyday for your family or does your wife ever cook? Who's better in the kitchen?
Sometimes, I do cook…sometimes my wife does. Of course, she can always follow the Chef Pepin recipes.(laughs) No, no… the best cook in the world is my wife! You should ask my children. She used to be a banker and she loves to cook. One day she made dinner, and my son said, “Mommy, why can’t you call Chef Pepin so that we don’t have to eat arroz con pollo every Tuesday?”
Do you have any advice for future aspiring Latino chefs?
The first thing you have to have is a passion for cooking! Before you even dare to think about opening a restaurant you have to go work in one. There is a big difference between cooking at home and cooking in a restaurant. You have to work long hours, holidays, and weekends. To open a restaurant, you have to learn not only how to cook, but also how to budget, how to stretch what you buy. You should always learn from someone else’s business before you try to go out on your own. I talk a lot of places around the country for career fairs and things like that because my passion is for children and older people. I always tell people to never ever go into a business for just the money. You have to have the passion. The worst thing is to be stuck in some business that you don’t like just for the money!