Jacques Pépin's Strategy For Cooking With Kids - Exclusive

There are many things that set Jacques Pépin apart from other famous TV chefs. There's his soothing French accent, for one. There's the fact that his incomparable control over his knife and stove — honed by years of training in European kitchens in the mid-20th century — is unequaled by most other food celebrities. He also constantly reminds his viewers that they should feel free to prepare food the way they like it instead of insisting that there's one "best" way to do it, as certain recipe developers are wont to do.

But the most distinctive part of Jacques' culinary persona may be how much he gets his family involved, whether they're on camera or off. He frequently references cooking for his late wife Gloria, as in his recipe for Gloria's sandwich. He has co-hosted three television shows with his daughter Claudine, who now runs the Jacques Pépin Foundation. He's gotten his granddaughter, Shorey, into the family business as well (via Facebook).

With that in mind, we wanted to ask the master about his approach to cooking with children for the benefit of food-loving parents everywhere. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, he shared his secrets.

How Jacques Pépin cooks with kids

For Jacques Pépin, the key to getting children to be interested in food and cooking is to start as early as possible — when they're still an infant. "When my daughter was a child, I don't think we ever bought baby food. I cooked spaghetti or whatever I had ... and then I took some of it to put in the blender to make a puree out of it," he said. He thinks that you shouldn't feed children typical kid food if you don't eat that stuff yourself. "You've got to feed them the same food you eat when the kid is a year old, as soon as they start eating."

Once the children are old enough, then you can start to involve them in the cooking process, even if it's just doing something very simple. "I held my daughter when she was a year and a half old and then made her stir the pot so she 'made it,' so she was going to eat it."

Pépin believes that it's important to engage with children and make them interact with food as much as possible. When his granddaughter was young, he would take her into the garden and have her pick vegetables and herbs so she could establish a tactile relationship with food at an early age. If your child is always surrounded by good food and has happy experiences with cooking, they will naturally be drawn to it, and you will reap the rewards, he said. "That establishes a platform for communication, in a sense. After, the beauty of it is that you share the food at the table."

Jacques Pépin's "Art of the Chicken" is in bookstores now. You can buy the book here.