One of this country's finest cooking teachers, Jacques Pepin, will be the first celebrity cook to offer lessons in the area this year. Pepin, one of the few teachers recruited from the ranks of master chefs (he headed the staff at the Elysees Palace in Paris and cooked at Pavillon in New York), is to present a five-session series at the new What's Cooking! school in Rockville.

Pepin will produce a complete meal in three-hour classes to begin at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Jan. 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21. The recipes, taken from his books "A French Chef Cooks at Home" and "La Technique," will change each day. Enrollment for the course will be limited to 25 students. The cost is $150. There will be a single demonstration charge of $35, only if places are available.

Call the school (301) 881-2430 for reservations or further information.

Careful comparison shoppers find that a number of items are cheaper in natural food stores than they are in supermarkets. Most people have been led to believe otherwise.

In addition, as more and more foods become highly processed, even those who do not ordinarily shop in natural food stores find such places are among the few sources for unprocessed foods.

How many other stores carry unsterilized whipping cream, or even pasteurized whipping cream free of additives? Or unprocessed bran, lunch meats without sodium nitrite, unhomogenized milk, butter without artificial color?

A recent survey of a natural food store located in a shopping center with one of Washington's two largest supermarket chains showed some interesting price comparison between the two stores:

Dry yeast is about 8 cents an ounce in the natural food store; $1 an ounce in the supermarket.

Bulgur or cracked wheat is 45 cents a pound in the natural food store and $1.25 a pound in the supermarket, when it is available.

Spices are considerably cheaper, too. An ounce of thyme is 19 cents versus 59 cents; basil is 39 cents versus $1.78.

Peanuts are $1.15 a pound instead of $1.78; sunflower seeds are $1.25 versus $2.04.

Very often a small amount of time spent comparison shopping will pay big dividends.

An Uncle Ben's Rice commercial which showed a small child dangerously close to a pot of hot food, has been dropped by the company.

The Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against Uncle Ben's, Inc., Houston, Tex., because the commercial might "influence children to behave in a manner creating an unreasonable risk of harm."

The commercial showed a 4-year-old old girl whose mother was cooking rice. The mother says: "Now that Uncle Ben's is foolproof . . . during the last few minutes you don't have to watch the pot."

The mother then takes the pot off the stove and tells the girl: "Sure. Watch the Uncle Ben's. Simmer 20 minutes. Then set aside. It finishes cooking by itself . . ."

While the pot is steaming on the counter, the child has her face very close to the pot.

FTC said it had no quarrel with the product but was concerned with how close the child was to the steaming rice.