Picks and Pans Review: The Apprentice

updated 05/05/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/05/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

By Jacques Pépin

You don't have to be a cook to enjoy Pépin's charming memoir about his life as a chef. In addition to presenting a recipe per chapter, Pépin, a cookbook author and PBS fixture, also provides a feast of anecdotes: He once turned down the job as JFK's White House chef to flip burgers and develop recipes for the Howard Johnson chain. "I wanted to work in a truly American environment," he says.

A small kid from southeast France with a big dream, Pépin learned classical French cuisine the classical way, working in bistros, resorts and Paris restaurants. Ultimately he became the personal chef to French President Charles DeGaulle. A gourmet without attitude ("being a chef, no matter where, was a blue collar job") Pépin, now 67, impresses with humor and humility. You may even develop a hankering for his HoJo clam chowder. (Houghton Mifflin, $26)

BOTTOM LINE: Appetizing buffet

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