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Jacques Pepin

“In painting, individuals who have a thorough knowledge of the techniques along with extraordinary talent, like Picasso or Matisse, are geniuses. In the kitchen, a few chefs have certainly risen higher and achieved more to become models, setting the criteria for other professionals. Chefs like Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller are good examples, but, for me, they are still not to be compared to a Matisse or a Picasso.

Jacques Pepin’s hands by griteye photographer Tom HopkinsWhen a chef cooks at the stove, he or she doesn’t follow a recipe but the memory of a taste or a new idea. He acts intuitively, impulsively adding, correcting a nuance in a sauce or a shade in a seasoning with all the ingredients at his disposal while visualizing and aiming for that elusive “goût” or savor. Similarly, if an artist had to intellectually analyze a painting and decide that it needs a touch of blue indigo here and a trace of red vermillion there, or a soupçon of cadmium yellow in this corner, by the time the tubes of paint are open and squeezed onto the palette, the urge and the vision are gone. The colors have to be at the ready on the palette for the painter, just as a set of ingredients must be in front of a chef as he or she cooks. The process is inherent, automatic, and intuitive. The artist places that touch of color there because it feels right, it belongs there, it fits, just as a cook adds a dash of salt, pepper, or wine to a sauce to get the taste exactly right. You cannot suppress the subconscious, certainly in art, especially abstract or surrealistic, like in Dali or André Breton (1924) automatic writing, where the unconscious or subconscious is the source of inspiration.

I don’t know whether my painting has helped my cuisine, or whether my cooking has helped my painting, and I don’t know if one borrows from the other. All I know is that, certainly for me, cooking and painting can live in harmony together. Both are different expressions of who I am and both enhance my life considerably.”

-Jacques Pepin

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