The Important Lesson Daniel Boulud Learned From Jacques Pépin - Exclusive

When you think about French chefs who have greatly influenced American culture, two names immediately come to mind: Jacques Pépin and Daniel Boulud. Although they've taken slightly different paths (Pépin had an illustrious restaurant career, but he's best known for his TV shows and books, while Boulud has never left the restaurant world), they both have had an enormous impact on educating Americans about French cuisine. It turns out that these two luminaries are also good friends.

Daniel Boulud gave an exclusive interview to Tasting Table on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of his first restaurant, DANIEL. In addition to celebrating his personal milestone, he was happy to talk about his friendship with Pépin: "I have some great memories of Jacques Pépin." The one thing he has learned the most from Pépin is how to be a culinary educator. Per Boulud, "I've known [him] for 40 years, and it never ceases to please me the way he thinks about French cuisine, the way he communicates about French cuisine. He never ceases to impress me by inspiring so many generations and inspiring kids today." As Boulud see it, the root of Pépin's success is that he can show people techniques without intimidating them. "The biggest lesson with Jacques is that he has known how to make it simple, make it easy, make it friendly, and make it delicious."

Jacques Pépin is a treasure trove of knowledge

Boulud has always viewed Pépin as a resource for historical knowledge about NYC's dining scene, as he was a prominent figure in its restaurants before Boulud arrived there in the '80s. "I've always been fascinated by Jacques, because he came before me and he's my encyclopedia of French fine dining in New York, because he was working at Le Pavillon when it was the old Le Pavillon." Now Boulud runs an updated version of the illustrious old Le Pavillon restaurant (the original was an NYC fine dining institution until it closed in 1972). And when it was revived, Boulud brought Pépin in to discuss the place's legacy with his new staff. 

Whether talking about restaurants or traditional cooking practices, for Boulud, Pépin is a link between the culinary knowledge of the past and the cooks of the present. "Jacques is the quintessential chef. I love to watch him in his little cooking classes he does, because he is a chef that was born with a certain generation. I've learned those practical techniques that are still relevant today but many people don't know."

You can dine at DANIEL at its location on 60 E. 65th St. in Manhattan Tuesday-Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.