Jacques Pépin Home Cooking Tips

The legendary French chef shares five tips to becoming a more responsible home cook

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We grew up watching Jacques Pépin effortlessly sift, slice and sauté on television, and, at 82, the legendary French-born chef is still cooking. And not only that, Pépin—who has published over 25 cookbooks in his illustrious 60-plus career—is still writing about cooking.  On a recent  book tour promoting his two latest tomes, A Grandfather's Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey and Poulets & Legumes: My Favorite Chicken and Vegetable Recipes, we caught up with Pépin to glean his go-to tips for home cooks. 

① Find Beauty in Ugly Produce

Pépin says that the best finds are often less-than-perfect looking produce. "People are going to buy button mushrooms but they have no taste. I pick the blackest mushrooms, they are a third of the price and have three times as much taste as conventional mushrooms." The same goes for wilted artichokes, which Pepin says if you find them discounted just ditch the leaves and use the hearts.

② Non-stick Aluminum Foil is Your New Best Friend

Pepin's latest go-to item is Reynolds non-stick aluminum foil. It turns out the non shiny side of the foil is non-stick and he even used it recently to make macarons. He still has parchment paper in his cabinet, but says he rarely uses it. He doesn't recommend silicone baking mats either, which get greasy and eventually rancid.

③ Double Your Pleasure

A firm believer that we have the tendency to buy too much at the grocery store, Pepin recommends approaching leftovers one of two ways: either plan for how you are going to serve something twice, or wrap up portions to store in the freezer. In Pepin's freezer you'll find portions of fish and containers of soup.

④ Use a Flexible Spatula

Food waste makes Pepin crazy. He's a fan of flexible rubber spatulas, especially for scraping the sides of a food processor. Without it he says you'll leave half of what you've whipped up behind. Silicone spatulas are stain and odor resistant and heat resistant up to 500 degrees, to boot.

⑤ Make Fridge Soup

A proponent of never throwing food out, Pepin makes his version of "stone soup" by raiding the refrigerator for tired produce. He combines ingredients such as wilted lettuce, half an onion, two asparagus, a piece of tomato, a piece of zucchini then chops them up then simmers them in broth or water. To give your fridge soup some body, he recommends adding couscous, and for richness, top it with cheese.

Amy Sherman is a San Francisco-based writer and cookbook author who never says no to a warm doughnut. Follow her on Instagram at @cookingwithamy.