Monday, October 10, 2011

Jacques Pépin's Ultimate Test of a Chef

By Jen Benyamine

Chef Jacques Pépin is one of the world's most renowned chefs and also dean of special programs here at The International Culinary Center. Dean Pépin recently visited the amphitheater to demonstrate the basic techniques he feels every professional chef—and home cook—should know in order to strengthen their culinary skills.
Whether he was carving and shaping a flower from a brick of butter or trimming and dicing a leek with exact precision, it was like watching a magician at work. His magic was on full display when he fixed a horribly broken handmade mayonnaise with a bit of vinegar slowly drizzled into the base (a trick I know will come in handy throughout my culinary education)!
Dean Pépin then told us that when he really wants to judge a chef's techniques, he asks them to prepare an omelet. Lucky for us, he gave a first-hand step-by-step guide to creating the perfect French omelet.
  1. Use a wide pan with sloping sides, preferably non-stick.
  2. Whisk the eggs well with a fork and really break them up so there are no long pieces of egg white.
  3. Heat the pan very well and place butter in it. It is ready once the butter starts bubbling.
  4. Pour the beaten eggs into the hot pan and vigorously shake the pan while using the fork to stir the center of the eggs to break up the curds and make them as small as possible. You want a lot of movement at this point.
  5. Once the eggs are cooked to the doneness you prefer (traditionally a bit wet in the center), angle the pan so that most of the mixture is at the bottom, with a thin layer on top. Run your fork around the edges to loosen the eggs from the pan. Then fold the thin, cooked eggs down into a half-moon shape.
  6. Run your fork under the thickest part of the eggs to loosen them from the pan and hit the pan at the base where the handle meets with the back of your hand to scoot it up, and begin to bring that part up and out of the pan. Push that part down over the center of the omelet to seal it.
  7. Bang the pan on your workspace a bit to move the omelet to the center of the pan and with an inverted hand, flip the omelet onto your plate. There should be no color (it should be white or pale yellow) and just pointed at the ends. It should have a very creamy and soft interior.
His demo was a peek into what can be seen in Jacques Pépin's Complete Techniques, his latest book that encompasses all that he has learned in the past 40 years. Included is a DVD with over three hours worth of Chef Pépin's techniques. As he said during the demo, he felt it was important to have a visual of some techniques because even the best written directions can be difficult to follow sometimes. We can attest to that, especially after having a front row seat to his craft in action.

Jen Benyamine is a student in the Classic Culinary Arts program.

1 comment:

Sam McAm said...

Nicely done article; esp. appreciated the fix for mayonnaise.