The man that Julia Child called “the best chef in America,” Jacques Pépin has hosted more than a dozen shows on PBS (among them Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, with Child, Jacques Pépin’s Cooking Techniques, and two series in 1998 with his daughter, Claudine: Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Cooking with Claudine and Jacques Pépin’s Kitchen: Encore with Claudine). His other TV programs include Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way, Jacques Pépin: More Fast Food My Way and The Complete Pépin, and Essential Pépin. He also has 21 books to his credit, including the best-selling memoir The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen (2003), as well as long-running columns in The New York Times and Food & Wine magazine.

Before Pépin began his television and writing career, however, he was a cook—a masterful one. Born into a restaurant family in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, Pépin worked in the kitchen from an early age, and as a teenager devoted himself to cooking full-time. In Paris, he trained under the famed Lucien Diat at the Plaza Athénée, as well as at Maxim’s and Fouquet’s. In his early twenties he was personal chef to President Charles de Gaulle.

When Pépin came to New York, in 1959, James Beard and Julia Child helped him get a position in the kitchen of the renowned French restaurant Le Pavillon. The decades following saw him not only open his own place, Le Potagerie, but earn his B.A. and M.A. degrees in French literature at Columbia University.

Jacques Pépin has been greatly honored in his native France, awarded the French Chevalier de L’Ordre National de la Legion D’Honneur (Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor), and Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole (National Order of Agricultural Merit Knighthood). And for many years he’s made Madison, Connecticut, his home (and source for fresh ingredients).