Jacques Pépin on Catching Frogs With Jacques Torres, Craving HoJo

Pépin will take HoJo over spherification any day.
Pépin will take HoJo over spherification any day. Photo: Melissa Hom

Grub Street had the pleasure of speaking with chef Jacques Pépin at a party on the Upper East Side for the upcoming University Settlement gala dinner on April 24, for which the longtime culinary legend will cook with Jacques Torres. What will he make? Lamb, though “if it was for Easter, I would do rabbit,” he told us mischievously. “I do Easter rabbit — but with chocolate, for my granddaughter.” Speaking of co-chef Torres, “last summer Jacques Torres and my friend Jean Claude were in my pond [in Connecticut] at midnight, grabbing for frogs.” Catch any? “Yes, we cooked them the next day. I take the skin off, drench them in flour, sauté with oil and butter, and finish with parsley and garlic; that’s the old, old-fashioned way.”

We just ran an interview with Nate Appleman about Chipotle, it’s similar to your Howard Johnson experience in the sixties…

“Howard Johnson was a totally different world. I learned about American eating habits. It was a very positive thing in my life. I was there for ten years: 1960 to 1970. As you get older, when I really think about the food that makes me salivate, it’s going to be that kind of food — from tacos to a beer. A roast of beef with a great bottle of white wine. Because I can visualize the dish, I can taste it in my memory. Often when you talk about molecular cooking, you don’t relate to it; it doesn’t really make you salivate. Cooking for me has to be something kind of visceral. This is the kind of food I go back to.”