FRENCH purists may be in for a shock: Jacques Pepin, chef to
three of France's heads of state, takes shortcuts in his recipes. He
adds canned soups, frozen peas, and other convenience foods without
Pepin says he streamlines his cooking because he doesn't always
have time to spend in the kitchen after a long, busy day. "In France
it is quite common for good home chefs to buy certain prepared foods
at the market," he explains in a Monitor interview here. "They start
with a proven brand, then use their own ideas to create their own
He shares many of his shortcut ideas in a new cookbook, "The
Short-Cut Cook" (William Morrow and Co., $19.95). And in a new PBS
television series called "Today's Gourmet," he shares cooking ideas
and techniques. The 26-part series, taped at KQED in San Francisco,
premieres this month on public television stations across the United
The TV series focuses on topics like bistro cooking,
Mediterranean food, nouvelle cuisine, party menus, low-budget
cooking, cooking for friends, and country French cuisine.
Special guests include Martin Yan, an expert in Chinese cooking,
and Alice Waters, who will share her views and enthusiasm about
cooking with organic fruits and vegetables.
Pepin's daughter, Claudine, also joins him on two shows - one on
family holiday traditions and another on budget meals. "She's a
student, and I show her several economical things to do with chicken
and ways to save leftover fruits and vegetables," he says.
Pepin explains that although his cooking style hasn't changed
from his early French training, the recipes have. "The food is
lighter. The calories are cut down. The food is quick and easy, but
it still remains within the context of classic cuisine," he says.
"I still use butter, but a very small amount. I use less salt. I
still use meat - but smaller portions - and I always have used a lot
of vegetables. For me, this is a cuisine that is valid," he
explains. "It has a style, and is exciting to do."
His show is not about nutrition, he points out. It's about how we
eat today. "I want to show people how to eat better," he says.
In the TV series, he grills quail in a matter of minutes, and
shows how trout can be deboned at the table. He uses Japanese rice
wine vinegar to make a light sauce to dress up steamed broccoli, and
prepares a dish of quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"), a South American
grain. "I want great variety in my menus," he says.
Another program on French country-style food includes his
mother's recipes. A purist in her own traditions, Mrs. …