James Peterson

Author Profile

James Peterson’s food career began in the 1970s after a stint of chemistry studies at Berkeley when he took off for India in search of a guru. The guru search was a flop—at least the search for the kind of guru Jim was looking for—but the journey led Jim, overland by bus, train, and thumbing to Paris. By this time funds were low and Jim managed to find work on a vineyard with a family near Carcassone. It was while living with this family of wine growers and sharing their meals that Jim realized there was a whole culture who appreciated food on a level he never would of expected.

Food and wine became such a passion that Jim returned to France two years later, after saving money from his job as a short-order cook. After a few classes at Le Cordon Bleu, Jim wormed his way into the kitchens of the then 3 star restaurant Vivarois. Because of Vivarois’s relatively small kitchen and staff, there was plenty of opportunity to learn all facets of a very refined cuisine. After Vivarois, Jim worked in restaurants in Paris and later landed a position at George Blanc (then called Chez La Mere Blanc) where he was exposed to the renowned cooking of Burgundy and Bresse, where the famous Bresse chickens are raised.

Jim returned to America in 1979 and started making the rounds of New York French restaurants where he was able to reinforce so much of what he had learned in France. In 1980, Jim finally had a restaurant of his own, the 38-seat Le Petit Robert, in Greenwich Village. Having his own restaurant enabled Jim to experiment and develop his own cooking style—regional and country cooking with the finesse of la grande cuisine. In a review in Gourmet magazine, Jay Jacobs described Le Petit Robert as “what may be the most creative restaurant in New York.” Jim had Le Petit Robert for four years before the restaurant lost its lease and Jim was back on the streets looking for work. Soon, he began teaching at The French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and ended up writing much of the school’s curriculum. Jim also taught at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School (now called the Institute of Culinary Education) and at the New York Restaurant School.

While teaching, Jim wrote his first book, Sauces. The book was much acclaimed—one reviewer called it “one of the best books in English of the [then 20th] century.” Richard Olney, Jim’s mentor, compared it with Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire. The book went on to win the prestigious Cookbook of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation. Nine more books followed, virtually all award winners or nominees.

While working on his seafood tome, Fish and Shellfish, Jim started experimenting with photography and whenever he had the chance took classes at The New School and the Rockport Photography School in Rockport Maine. Soon he was doing the photography for his own books.

In addition to traveling around the United States teaching cooking, Jim works in his Brooklyn home/office/studio writing, photographing and maintaining his website. He has just submitted a large manuscript for an upcoming book The Essentials of Baking. (http://www.jimcooks.com/)

Website: http://www.jimcooks.com/

Cookbooks by James Peterson