"I hope I'm worth it," he joked to an admiring audience in the Mayor's Reception Room.
This year will be the fifth Book and Cook turn for Pepin, a virtual one-man cookbook industry and the host of "Today's Gourmet" on PBS.
On opening night, he will collaborate on a dinner at Deux Cheminees with chef-owner Fritz Blank. The following night, he will be honored at a $60-a- ticket fundraising dinner at Memorial Hall to benefit the Bone Marrow Transplantation Center at Hahnemann University. On Saturday of that weekend, he is scheduled to appear at a cookbook signing party at Macy's in The Court at King of Prussia.
At some point, Pepin hopes to get together with longtime friends here, including chef Georges Perrier of Le Bec Fin, chef Gary Coyle of 210 at the Rittenhouse, and Julie Dannenbaum, who used to invite him for one-week guest stints when she operated her Creative Cooking School in Center City.
Pepin's own restaurant apprenticeship began at age 13 at a hotel in his home town of Bourg-en Bresse, near Lyon. After further training in demanding hotel kitchens in Paris, he served as personal chef to three French presidents, including de Gaulle. He has lived and worked in the U.S. since 1959, and maintains residences in Manhattan and Connecticut.
The pairing of Pepin with Deux Cheminees grew out of a promise made to Blank during a previous Book and Cook appearance.
Blank had made a point of attending all of Pepin's Book and Cook dinners, got to know him, and the two talked about cooking together someday.