5 Things Businesses Can Learn from Jacques Pépin
Here’s a question for you: Can you name one famous individual on the Internet who has no detractors in social media? You know, no trolls, no negativity and no clapping back at that person. It’s pretty hard, isn’t it? Perhaps that’s a statement more about the age we live in than anything specific about a particular famous individual.
There is, however, one person whose online presence seems somewhat remarkable in this regard: Jacques Pépin. As many of you know, he’s the French-born chef who became famous in the United States both cooking with Julia Child and through his various, long-running PBS shows. Having started his career in the high-end restaurants of Paris and cooking for the late President of France, Charles de Gaulle, he’s pretty much done at all – restauranteur, bestselling author, TV personality. He even once worked at Howard Johnson’s, where he helped develop the famous the clam chowder served at its restaurants in the 1970s.
And right here, I’ll admit I have a bias – it was Jacques Pépin who first taught me the right way to chop an onion, how to make eggs, and sauté potatoes. Basically, I learned how to cook from him, so I will always be grateful for that.
But what’s most interesting to me is that, at a time when online trolls can’t wait to tear down famous people online, his feeds are almost devoid of all that. Reading the comments on his and his foundation’s posts the past few months, amazingly no one has a bad word to say about him. (The worst thing I’ve seen someone comment about is how they would’ve used a different ingredient, or they had a different recipe for the same dish, and usually that only comes on Twitter.) It made me wonder why he’s so well-liked and why he defies most of the norms of today’s online behavior.
I think it stems from a few things, many of which a lot of businesses could do well to model themselves after.
No. 1: He Continues to Demonstrate Audience Relevance by Evolving His Content
Of course, Chef Pépin’s authority derives from his past achievements both cooking for famous people like de Gaulle and from his past TV shows. And he could’ve easily rested on that and just put out re-runs in social of old shows from decades ago. But he continues to produce new content for everyday cooks, molding his cooking demonstrations so they are relevant to that particular era. For example, in 2021, he shared tips on Facebook for those cooking just for two people, who might be stuck at home during the pandemic with only basic items in the refrigerator.
The lesson for businesses here: Keep evolving, as your authority with an audience derives from you staying relevant to their needs, not being stuck in your old ways.
No. 2: He Tells Engaging Stories and the Love for What He Does Comes Through
For those who watch him closely like I do, he’ll tell stories of how he learned to cook a particular dish (maybe it’s from his mother showed him how to make an apple tart or from his late wife who inspired dishes with a more Caribbean flair.). The point is, his cooking demonstrations are engaging and memorable because they provide that emotional component that people are drawn to.
The lesson for businesses here: A lot of businesses put out content but when it lacks that deeper emotional feeling or story, it can end up being an almost joyless exercise. Adding stories and demonstrating your love of a particular field attracts people to your business, regardless of the industry you’re in.
No. 3: He Speaks the Language of the Audience and Remains Accessible
I once met Thomas Keller, the famed American restauranteur who created The French Laundry and Per Se, two of country’s premier dining establishments. In his own way, he’s probably been more influential on the modern-day restaurant than any chef in American history. (Indeed, he may be the single biggest reason people take pictures of their food when they go to a nice restaurant these days.) Yet, that’s why we go to his restaurants and don’t do what he does at home – his cooking is almost inaccessible in the sense there’s no way an average cook would ever come close to making the dish the way he can.
With Jacques Pépin, it’s different. He’s never forgotten that he demonstrates cooking for everyday people. He uses canned vegetables sometimes, he adds sauces out of a jar, or just everyday ingredients from the refrigerator or cupboard. Could he create more dishes that get people to “oooh” and “ah”? Of course, he could. But that’s not his audience and he’s never gotten away from his mission of showing the average person how to cook better with what they have.
The lesson for businesses here: If you’re doing a high-end offering, it can definitely pay to provide those “oohs” and “aahs” in an aspirational way, but for most small companies, you have to serve everyday people. And often, you have to meet them where they are, not where you are or where you think you want them to be.
No. 4: He Helps People as His End Goal
Maybe the best thing about Chef Pépin is that he cares about people learning to cook the right way. It doesn’t matter if it’s dicing an onion, sharpening knives, peeling an avocado, or not boiling a soup. He provides the insight that will help them improve through practical tips and demonstrating how to do something the right way. And by being the go-to in terms of helping people learn, people will naturally buy his cookbooks or other things he might eventually sell.
The lesson for businesses here: We often say it, but businesses ultimately are about helping people find the solutions they need – (ones hopefully good for them). But it’s not just about buying their product or their service. It’s about really wanting to help customers get better and wanting them to succeed regardless of whether they buy your product or not. Because if you become known for helping customers succeed, you’ll end up getting business regardless.
No. 5: He’s Trustworthy in a Time of Great Mistrust
Some people have suggested that Chef Pépin has a certain calmness that people have been particularly drawn to during this pandemic period. He’s like the that safe port in an otherwise treacherous storm. But I think it’s more than that. He’s also a trustworthy source at a time when many are skeptical about others and their motives. In an interesting way, he sells by not selling. And his main goal of helping people become better cooks always comes through.
The lesson for businesses here: We’ve spoken previously about how businesses can develop that all-important narrative of trust. And it’s especially true today in an era when mistrust about companies and authority in general is so high. If you can be that company that communicates trust in your industry, you will likely have a huge advantage over the competition.
We hope you found this helpful – or at least had as much fun reading it as we did in writing it. At Marketing Nice Guys, our mission is to help you excel in digital marketing. Contact us anytime for a free consultation. We’re happy to discuss your marketing challenges and an approach aimed at finding solutions for you.