Born in 1935 in Bourg-en-Bresse, France, near Lyon, Pépin always found the kitchen to be a place of both comfort and excitement. He helped in his parents' restaurant, Le Pélican, and, at age 13, began an apprenticeship at the Grand Hôtel de L'Europe. He subsequently worked in Paris, ultimately serving as personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle.
After moving to the United States in 1959, Pépin first worked at Le Pavillon, an historic French restaurant in New York City. From 1960 to 1970, he was director of research and new development for Howard Johnson's and developed recipes for the restaurant chain. At the same time, he earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees at Columbia University.
Author of more than 30 books, he published his first cookbook, The Other Half of the Egg, with Helen McCully in 1967, the same year that his only daughter, Claudine was born. Pépin released his seminal text, La Technique, in 1976, and his autobiography, The Apprentice, in 2003. Jacques is also an accomplished artist, which he was able to showcase in his most recent book, The New York Times- bestselling Art of the Chicken. The book celebrates the humble bird through stories, recipes, and art.
Pépin is a former columnist for The New York Times and his articles have appeared in countless food magazines, especially Food & Wine magazine. He is the recipient of honorary doctorate degrees from five American universities, was awarded France's highest civilian honor, La Légion d'Honneur, in 2004, as well as the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in 1997 and the Mérite Agricole in 1992. He has received 16 James Beard Foundation Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
In 2015, Pépin received the American Public Television's Lifetime Achievement Award in November and the inaugural Julia Child Award, which was presented to him at The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History on October 22.
A longtime close friend of Julia Child, he starred with her in a PBS series called “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home,” which won both an Emmy Award and a James Beard Foundation Award in 2001. He has also been executive culinary director for Oceania Cruises since 2003.
For the past 30 years, Pépin has taught in the Culinary Arts Program at Boston University and he served as dean of special programs at the International Culinary Center in New York City. He parlayed his dedication to culinary education into the creation of the Jacques Pépin Foundation, along with his daughter and son-in-law, in 2016. He has called Connecticut home since 1975.