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    Friday, June 14, 2024

    Gloria Pepin, ‘wife and lifeforce’ of chef Jacques Pepin, dies at their Madison home

    Gloria Pépin, wife and “lifeforce” of author, television personality, and culinary instructor Jacques Pépin, died Saturday at their Madison home, according to a statement on the chef’s Facebook page. She was 83.

    Pépin “passed peacefully in her own bed” surrounded by her husband of 54 years, daughter Claudine and son-in-law Rollie, her granddaughter Shorey, close friends Tom Hopkins and Reza Yavari, and her “beloved pup Gaston” by her side. No cause of death was listed.

    “We are overcome with grief, but Gloria was a fighter: a strong, resilient, “spill-no-tears” woman. She would no doubt urge us to get on with living our lives and continue to do the work we were meant to do,” the statement said. “In lieu of flowers, Gloria wished condolence gifts should be made to the food insecurity or animal welfare charity of your choice.”

    Her obituary detailed highlights from her life: her celebration of her Puerto Rican and Cuban heritage, a time in her 20s where she ran a studio in the music industry, and the moment where she first met her husband, when he was a ski instructor at Hunter Mountain in New York. The two married in 1966 at the home of Craig Claiborne, long-time food editor and restaurant critic for The New York Times, where prominent chefs cooked the guests’ dinner.

    The couple welcomed daughter Claudine a year later, while Jacques cooked, went to school, and wrote. They opened La Potagerie, a small soup restaurant on 5th Avenue, between 45th and 46th street, in New York City, in 1970. “Through it all, Gloria was his partner, his strength, his rock,” the statement said.

    Gloria nursed Jacques back to health after a debilitating car accident in 1974, and in 1976, they bought their Madison home and worked together to completely renovate the property themselves. Later they opened Gloria’s French Café in Madison.

    “At the café nothing was ever wasted. This was an ethos that Gloria and Jacques shared. She managed the front of the house with impeccable taste. Like everything in Gloria’s life, the restaurant was extraordinarily well-organized.”

    Gloria “always had an appreciation for the beautiful and finer things in life,” like caviar, champagne and foie gras, but “she was never pretentious and typically added ice to her wine,” the statement said. “She never left a gram of meat in a steamed lobster or crab shell, and recently sat for hours to extract garlic cloves from tiny heads grown in their garden.”

    For 54 years, the Pépins “made sure to sit at the table every night for dinner, enjoying their meal and a glass of wine, intentionally reaffirming their marriage and their love. With Sinatra or Aznavour singing, they would sometimes spontaneously dance after dinner (as long as Jeopardy! was over).”

    Connecticut restaurateurs who have formed friendships with the Pépins over the years posted tributes to Gloria Sunday.

    “Over the last 7 years, the Pépin family has become part of our family at 85th Day Food Community,” said Dan Meiser, whose restaurant group includes Mystic eateries Oyster Club, Engine Room, Grass & Bone and the new Nana’s Bakery & Pizza, in an Instagram post. “The Pepin family extends well beyond those that bear the last name. The Pepin Family is about Impact, Inclusiveness, Justice and Community. We will continue to fight alongside the Pepin Family to achieve these Ideals.”

    Jacques Pépin was honored with a bronze statue installed at Stone Acres Farm, 85th Day’s partner farm in Stonington, last October.

    Bun Lai of Miya’s Sushi in New Haven also posted a tribute, sharing his appreciation for his relationship with Gloria.

    “Gloria, I am endlessly grateful to you for bringing such goodness into our lives. Thank you for the pointers in pétanque; thank you for being so kind to momma; thank you for being especially kind to me; and thank you for showing me what a life brimming with generosity looks like” he wrote.

    Because of COVID-19 concerns, there will be no funeral gathering, the statement said, but by her request, there will be a big ‘Boules’ des Dimanche Club’ party with all of her friends on her birthday in June 2021.

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