We’ve spoken with culinary director Bradford Thompson, Rao’s proprietor Frank Pellegrino, and pastry chef François Payard about their participation in the upcoming Food University in Las Vegas, in which world-renowned chefs and culinary experts will be teaching hands-on classes, and there are even more interviews to look forward to before the event takes place at Caesars Palace from March 27 to 29. Now, we catch up with Claudine Pépin, daughter of famed chef Jacques Pépin, who's made a name for herself in the culinary industry in her own right.
"I’ve known [producer] Richard Gore for over 25 years, and when he explained the concept to me I was over-the-moon excited to be hosting," Pépin, who has been involved in the food industry her whole professional life, told The Daily Meal. "I won’t just be introducing chefs, though; I’ll be walking around and helping, pouring glasses of wine, with a goal to make the whole experience more fun and to act as liaison between the students and presenters."
As Pépin will have the opportunity to be a part of the overall experience (as opposed to just teaching one class), she’s most looking forward to watching participants grow and learn over the course of the event. "Watching somebody who thinks that they can’t cook, or that they have no palate, transcend that will be amazing. Watching people learn to trust themselves," she said. "We live with our palates, but a lot of people don’t trust it because they’ve been told otherwise. So when somebody tastes wine, and says 'I think I taste blackberries,' they might not have even known it was possible to be right!"
Pépin also believes that the value of the experience, when it comes to the price tag, is beyond compare. "$1,400 will get you a pass to, say Aspen Food & Wine, but that pass doesn’t actually put you in the kitchen, cooking with the chefs," she said. "I’ve done so many events, and I’ve never seen this ensemble. And to have the chefs actually do a hands-on class is amazing. If you really want to learn to cook instead of just looking at food, this will really be a once in a lifetime experience."
You better buy your tickets soon, though, because Pépin has a prediction: "By the time this comes around next year, we’ll have a three-year waiting list."
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.