Pittsburgh Chefs Prepare for a Gala Tribute to Jacques Pepin

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden will celebrate the legendary chef with a gala on November 19.

photos by by Casey Schmauder


Seven chefs and their staffs scattered throughout the Duquesne Club’s kitchen to prepare dishes such as rabbit braised in grain mustard and California-basil-fed escargot to please a group of eager tasters.

On Oct. 21, stakeholders of the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden held a tasting to determine a menu for their Gala Tribute to Jacques Pepin on Saturday, Nov. 19. Pepin will be the fourth honoree (Ina Garten, Thomas Keller and Alice Waters previously were honored) for the club’s annual garden-to-table themed galas. The event includes a cocktail hour with auctions, a tribute presentation and a seated dinner.

Pepin, a French chef who studied at Columbia University, has for years been a fixture on PBS with a series of cooking shows and is the author of numerous cookbooks.


The chefs selected for the gala are Keith Coughenour, Mike Caudill and Will Racin from the Duquesne Club, private chef Ben Chilenski, Brett Flesch from the Carnegie Science Center, Andrew Garbarino from The Twisted Frenchman and Casey Renee from Whitfield at the Ace Hotel.  

The chefs researched Pepin’s books to prepare custom dish options for the tasting. The tasters included Nancy Byrnes who produces the series for Pittsburgh Botanic Garden and Bill Kolano, a board member. They tried to select a menu that would combine elegant food with a country touch that would resonate with Pepin.

“Pepin is French and classically trained, but he has a special warmth,” Byrnes says.

In addition to fresh, local food, the event features a botanic side with arrangements from top local florists.

Invited tasters started with cold hors d’oeuvres, followed by warm hors d’oeuvres, two soup options, a salad, two early course options and two dinner options. Following this, they moved to the dessert table where the pastry chefs had prepared a variety of option, complete with a fried beignets station and a large Grand Marnier souffle — there would have to be eight of them at the actual event.  

Byrnes had requested that no Thanksgiving foods be presented on Nov. 19, so the chefs had a special challenge to use fresh fall foods that were not already associated with the holiday. They did, however, sneak in a single cranberry in the duck consomme soup.

At the conclusion of the tasting, Byrnes quickly finalized a menu with the chefs so she could forward it along to Pepin, who would be hand-illustrating the menu, which all attendees would receive a copy of.

The gala will be held at the Duquesne Club on Saturday, Nov. 19 beginning at 6:30 p.m. An individual ticket is $350 and you can register here.



Categories: The 412