On Cooking and Painting. Hands of a Chef. Hands of a Painter.

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Jacques Pepin: On Cooking and Painting. Hands of a Chef. Hands of a Painter.
Photo: Tom Hopkins

“Cooking is mostly a matter of craftsmanship with talent and some inspiration added, along with a sprinkling of love for the perfect dish; one cannot cook indifferently.” (On Cooking and Painting 01)

“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.” (03)

“When 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.” (04)

Jacques Pepin: On Cooking and Painting. Hands of a Chef. Hands of a Painter.
Photo: Tom Hopkins

“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.”  (04)

“When I paint, I lack technique. I have never invested the time and the endless repetition necessary to understand the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors and other “tricks of the trade, “ like what can be done with a brush, a knife, a spatula, or a finger. I am a poor technician. It is hard for my hands to express the ideas I have in my head, because my technique is not good enough, and this is very frustrating. When one of my paintings turns out somewhat well, it’s more fortuitous or accidental than controlled.” (05)

“An art student who spends years in school learning the rules of perspective, how to mix yellow and blue to make green, and how to use a brush, a spatula, or his or her fingers, along with other technical aspects of painting, will be able to sit at an easel and create one painting after another. Does that make this person an artist? No, he or she is a craftsman at this point. However, these trained hands now have the means to express talent if talent there is. It is the same with the chef apprentice.” (02)

Full text of “On Cooking and Painting

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