Hip pain forces Jacques Pepin to cancel book tour


Jacques Pepin in 2009. (Helayne Seidman for The Washington Post)

We know there are plenty of big names coming to the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show this weekend, most of them connected to the Food Network. There’s Guy Fieri, Paula Deen, Giada de Laurentiis. But the person we were most excited about seeing was the masterful, lovable, unpretentious Jacques Pepin.

In addition to seeing him at the show, we had plans to shoot a video with him and to take him to dinner at Palena with his daughter, Claudine. Anyway, that’s why we were so disappointed to hear that Jacques has had to cancel his trip here for the show. Why? He needs hip replacement surgery, and it can’t wait. In fact, Jacques, 75, is canceling much of the publicity tour surrounding his new book, “Essential Pepin,” as a result.

Here is the letter he sent out last Thursday explaining the situation:

Dear All,

I am immensely regretful to be forced to cancel most of my book tour for Essential Pepin.

I have, fortunately, been able to meet some of the requirements for the East Coast, but traveling to the West Coast sounds insurmountable to me. I am not scheduled to have a total hip replacement on November 7 in Milford, CT.

As the pain was bothering me in September, I scheduled a cortisone injection in my hip joint on October 6. After a few days, against all my expectations, it turned out that the shot was not having the anticipated result. Consequently, at my insistence, my surgeon gave me another cortisone injection on October 21. The pain has gotten worse rather than better in the last few days. I now start sweating when I face 20 or 30 feet of walking, not knowing the extent of pain I will experience or whether my leg will hold on or give way; it’s a weird feeling.

I have not slept much in the last several days and, even with heavy-duty painkillers like Percocet, the pain is fairly constant. I have been severely distraught and frustrated at the prospect of cancelling engagements and I certainly do realize the great disappointment, disturbance, and extra work this will cause to many people. I am truly saddened to let down so many of you who, for the last several months, have worked steadfastly, diligently, and generously on my behalf to bring about a most impressive publicity tour. Carrie Bachman has done a superlative job and has definitely set up the best organized, varied, significant, and notable tour I have ever experienced.

The great thing is that the book is doing quite well and, hopefully, I will be able to resume some of the planned publicity 3 or 4 weeks after release from the hospital.

Meanwhile, with great apologies, let me thank you for your kindness, friendship, understanding, and commitment to my book and series.

Fondly,

Jacques

Our best wishes go out to Jacques. When we got the chance to shop and cook with him a few years ago, it wasn’t just his astonishing knife skills and breathtaking cooking speed that impressed us most. It was his personality: gregarious, gracious, patient. You know all this from seeing him on TV. With Jacques, what you see is what you get.

We couldn’t help but call him at his Connecticut home to offer our get-well wishes and to talk to him about the cancellations, the surgery and his expected recovery. Edited excerpts follow:

All We Can Eat: We’re so sorry we won’t get to see you this weekend, Jacques!

Jacques Pepin: I want to apologize for not being able to come. It’s the first time in certainly the last 25 years that I’ve had to cancel anything. I was kidding myself to think I could make it down. I’m now holding the side of a table when I walk. When I’m sitting down, it’s OK. Otherwise, when I move it’s atrocious. It went very fast. Up until about two weeks ago I thought I’d be fine (until the surgery). But it got worse and worse.

AWCE: Of course, this is terrible timing, isn’t it, with the book just coming out?

JP: Horrible. I was going to go to Providence, to Johnson and Wales, on Tuesday to Boston University, tomorrow a special dinner for 80 people I did a drawing for. On Thursday, 1,000 people were going to a thing with 25 chefs cooking for me in New York, and then I was coming back Friday and on Saturday morning early going to Washington. Then to Seattle, a dinner with Nathan Myhrvold, all kinds of things planned. San Francisco, Berkeley, Chicago, Phoenix, that was all going on until the 28th of this month.

Things after the beginning of December, I haven’t canceled. The book has started off doing very well, but this is a big book tour. I really don’t like to not do it.

AWCE: I’m assuming that this might be related to that horrible car accident you survived in 1974.

JP: Yes, it is. I had 14 fractures at that point. I had the two hips broken, the back broken, the pelvis was in four pieces also. I had seven fractures in the pelvis and hip area. And of course my leg and arm. I had a hip replacement last year. When they did the other hip last year I said, ‘How about the other?’ The doctor said, ‘Well, there’s damage there, too, but it doesn’t look that bad.’ I thought it would last a few more years.

AWCE: What sort of recovery period are you expecting?

JP: Based on the last one, it should be pretty good. Five weeks later I was doing a regular week teaching at the French Culinary Institute.

AWCE: I’m not surprised, given what happened after that car accident. I was just rereading that section of your memoir, “The Apprentice,” and you shocked doctors by how quickly you recovered from something that should’ve killed you.

JP: Yes. You don’t realize this when you’re young, but you do pay the price at some point.

AWCE: When can we see you back in Washington?

JP: I don’t know, because in addition to the Metro Cooking Show, I was supposed to come back for a lunch with Michel Richard. That was canceled earlier because it’s just a week after we scheduled the surgery. The Metro Cooking Show folks said they’d like to do something at the end of December or January. I would like to do it, but I can’t give an answer until next week, when I come home from surgery after a few days, and see how I’m feeling.

AWCE: We want to ask readers for their ideas for get-well meals they’d make for you. Will Gloria [Pepin’s wife] cook for you during your recovery? What would you most be interested in eating then, do you think?

JP: Gloria will definitely be cooking for me. I’m thinking I’d like leek and potato soup. Scrambled eggs, you know. Eggs in one form or another. Probably some salad, some cheese, maybe some roast chicken.

AWCE: In the meantime, Jacques, the most important thing is that you feel better. Best wishes for the surgery and the recovery.

JP: Thank you. I just want to apologize again to anybody who went out of the way to come see me. Hopefully we’ll do it sometime soon.

ON TWITTER: #GetWellJacques

Tweet Send chef Jacques Pepin (@jacques_pepin) “get well” mesages—or even a photo of a dish you’re dedicating to his recovery—by using the hashtag #GetWellJacques. We’ll post responses right here.

Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Washington Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.

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