Watch any of Chef Jacques Pépin's cooking shows and you witness not only a master cook at work but also a master instructor, eager to impart his vast base of culinary knowledge to viewers. It is a role he continues off-screen as a dean of Special Programs at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and most recently, as a teacher to his 4-year-old granddaughter Shourey.
Pépin is unabashed about the importance of developing a child’s palate, an attitude he says, that comes from being from a family of cooks.
"For me the moment for a child to be in the kitchen is from the moment they are born. For my family in France, many of whom were in the restaurant industry, the crib is in the kitchen out of necessity," he says. "But the children, they nourish themselves on the noise, the scents, the tastes. There is no place as sacred as the kitchen. You smell the smell of family, hear the noise of mother and father, all of that changes you forever."
[photo granddaughter align=left max-width=150]With a background like this, Pépin’s granddaughter has an edge on gourmet tastes. Her grandfather is known the world over for his many TV cooking shows, including the acclaimed Jacques and Julia Cooking at Home with Julia Child, his numerous cookbooks, including Fast Food My Way, a gourmet take on quick-meal preparation in a world of takeout. Shourey’s father, Roland Wesen, is also a noted chef who worked at Gramercy Tavern, Pearl Oyster Bar, and The Rainbow Room. Her mother, Pépin’s daughter Claudine also learned at her father’s knee, going on to become a professional cook and wine expert who costarred with her father on Cooking with Claudine.
For Claudine, and now Shourey, one of the earliest gourmet tastes developed in childhood is one for caviar.
"Claudine was eating caviar in her crib," says Pépin. Preschooler Shourey has been a fan for years, too. The family’s latest project is promoting a line of American Caviar with California Caviar — Chef Pépin is passionate about sustainable fisheries, particularly around this gourmet product. Claudine Pépin has created her own line with the company, including caviar snack and lunch packs specifically for kids called Caviar Kids.
"One of Shourey’s favorite dishes is a pasta I call Eggs & Ears which is just orecchiette pasta, which looks like little ears, whitefish caviar, whipped cream cheese, and butter tossed together," she says.
While not every child comes from such a family of culinary heavy hitters, any child can develop a sophisticated and adventuresome palate. The Pépins — father and daughter — offer these tips to help your grandchildren get off to a gourmet start.
See Jacques and Claudine's Tasteful Kitchen Tips.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.