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Gotham Bagels and Gotham Provisions Co. owner Joe Gaglio grew up watching legendary French chef Jacques Pépin on TV. He read Pépin’s “La Technique,” a book that to this day is considered a go-to resource for teaching the fundamentals of French cuisine.
Now, Gaglio, along with other area chefs, will cook for Pépin.
A few Madison chefs are hosting Pépin in Madison Oct. 5-6 for a series of events aimed at celebrating Madison’s culinary community, the city’s food scene and what Gaglio calls the agricultural bounty of the region.
“He is a hero to me and a hero to my colleagues,” he says. “Jacques Pépin is going to be at our restaurants. We are going to cook for him. He doesn’t have to sign anything, he doesn’t have to take a picture with us — he’s going to eat our food. Words cannot describe it.”
The two-day event begins Friday evening with a cocktail reception and a five-course French-inspired wine dinner at Sardine. Pépin will give a presentation before the dinner, which will be prepared by local chefs including Tory Miller, Patrick DePula, Elizabeth Dahl, John Gadau, Phillip Hurley, Dan Fox, Dan Bonanno, Shinji Muramoto and Francesco Mangano. The following morning, Pépin will visit the Dane County Farmers’ Market with a small group of guests before heading to L’Etoile for brunch and a memorabilia signing, including copies of another of Pépin’s books, “The Apprentice.”
While Gaglio has met Pépin a few times in New York — the two are both graduates of Columbia University's School of General Studies — hosting one of his culinary heroes will be an incredible honor, says Gaglio, who has “always revered” Pépin’s techniques, books, presentations and style.
Chefs aren’t the only people excited for Pépin’s visit. According to Gaglio, tickets for the Sardine dinner and L’Etoile brunch — priced at around $250 — sold out in three days. The chefs are expecting more than 240 people to participate in the weekend’s events.
Although the weekend is meant to celebrate Madison’s culinary scene, Gaglio said he is also using the event to spotlight the “rampant” issue of suicide and depression in the food industry. He says Madison-area chefs plan to donate a portion of the event’s proceeds to a local suicide prevention center.
Gaglio said that while mental health issues and instability have long plagued the food service industry, the June suicide death of chef, author and world-renowned TV host Anthony Bourdain, which occurred around the time Gaglio was finalizing Pépin’s contract, has brought more attention to the issue. Pepin’s visit, Gaglio says, provides an opportunity to further feature the prevalence of the problem he attributes to irregular work hours, high levels of stress and long periods of time away from family members.
“Chefs always want to do something for a cause. We always want to do these types of things and give back to the community,” Gaglio says. “We want to recognize it and use our platform of celebrating our wonderful community as an opportunity to say not only are we giving back to the community, but we are giving back to the people that we work with day in and day out.”
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