Jacques Pepin a the Demo

Essential Tips from Chef Jacques Pépin

July is #FCIFlashback month where we are celebrating our founding as The French Culinary Institute with exciting programming and demos that embrace our FCI legacy—after all, the International Culinary Center® is still The French Culinary InstituteTM.

On July 11th, ICC was fortunate enough to have Chef Jacques Pépin, Dean of Special Programs, visit us for his classic La Technique demonstration. Chef Pépin’s technique, skill, and knowledge are unparalleled. His impressive display of knife skills is incredible to watch and learn from, and he has been an extraordinary resource at the International Culinary Center since 1988. Chef shared some of his vast knowledge with our audience during his demonstration.

Here are some essential tips to mastering your knife skills & more straight from the source:

Have a good knife.

As you use your knife continually, it will dull. Sharpening it on a stone will make the knife last longer. To do so:

  • Saturate your stone with water or mineral oil, depending on what is recommended for your particular stone.
  • Use steel to realign the teeth of your knife.
  • Always keep the knife at the correct angle on the steel that you are sharpening the knife with, or the teeth may break.
And if you need to realign your knife blade on steel:
  • Cover the entire blade back and forth on the steel
  • Apply pressure
  • Keep your angle constant, or else you will destroy the teeth of the knife
Glue your hand to the knife you are working with.

This controls the knife, allows for an even distribution of cuts and prevents accidents.

The sharper your knife, the less you cry when cutting an onion.

Did you know that onions make us teary because a reaction in the onion releases a chemical called lachrymatory factor? A sharp knife causes less damage to the cell walls of an onion where irritants are unleashed, causing tears to form. The sharper the knife, the fewer irritants that will be released.

When using a vegetable peeler, use it flat on the cutting board.

If you wrap your hand around the peeler, instead of pinching the peeler at the top, you will be too far away from the cutting board and it will make it much more difficult.

Vinegar and salt cleans copper.

Ever wonder how Chef Pépin keeps his copper pots and pans so clean on TV? Well it’s not all in the magic of TV! He recommends using a combination of salt and vinegar to clean the grime and tarnish off of copper. It works because the acid in the vinegar strips the oxidized patina from the copper and the salt acts as a mild abrasive to remove any caked on grime.

And lastly, one of the most important pieces of advice that Chef Pépin shared with ICC students is to see the food through the chef you are learning from. He advises aspiring professionals to take pride in what the chef wants you to learn. After working with different chefs over the course of many years, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge to create your own style.