Last evening, some of my students and I took in a 'talk' with Jacque Pepin, Mario Batali & Gael Greene. What a hoot! We "made our way" into a VIP-only reception to meet Mr. Batali and Mr. Pepin. We were rather successful in our venture. Jacques Pepin came right over to the students, offered some words of encouragement, took pictures and signed autographs. Mario Batali was swamped with 'fans,' but he too made his way over and made sure that everybody that wanted an autograph or picture was satisfied. Later this evening I will upload some pics! Below is a 'clip' from the Wilmington News Journal about the night. (Legal Stuff, first: This article is taken in part from the Wilmington News Journal, All rights reserved, Copyright 2005, reproduced for educational purposes only) America is no longer "the Velveeta wasteland" of food critic Gael Greene's youth. When it comes to restaurants, it's the land of equal opportunity. Americans will eat Turkish cuisine one night, Chinese the next, until the world has been circumnavigated, said Jacques Pepin, a TV cooking icon. It was such egalitarianism of the palate that allowed him to arrive in 1959 as a lowly union member (Local 89) and to become one of America's best-loved figures, as was proved by the deep well of applause that greeted him in Wilmington. (And let's not forget he's French.) Greene and Pepin were joined on stage at the DuPont Theatre on Friday night by celebrity chef Mario Batali, who owns a string of Italian and Mediterranean-style eateries in New York's Greenwich Village and Theater District. The three had gathered in a mock living room for a quip-filled evening focusing on America's love affair with food. To make sure the conversation flowed, Pepin brought a bottle of red wine. He shared it with "Molto Mario," as he is known to fans. And Batali was gracious enough to reveal he's thinking of expanding his empire to Las Vegas. "We're in negotiations now," he said. The last of a series of events this year sponsored by Forum USA Delaware, it was an evening of contrasts. Pepin was distinguished in a dark-toned jacket, Greene oddly mysterious in a gold-billed cap, Batali informality itself. He wore his trademark orange shoes, blue socks, shorts, and a quilted vest, all topped by a red beard and a light-hearted manner. "I live in New York City," he quipped, "where one strives to be weird." But Greene said the novel and weird were not always successful in the New York restaurant scene. She cited a spray-in-the-mouth margarita and a deconstructed onion soup (some assembling required) as examples. She also said she had never successfully pointed to a new food trend. Nor was Pepin especially interested in that issue, preferring to focus on the traditions of well-prepared food. But Batali speculated that Americans were ready to delve into the regional food of western Europe, as well as regional American cooking. Greene said people can see some of that happening in New York now, with more regional Italian cuisine. Batali has hosted several series on the Food Network and was just named the most outstanding chef in America. He received the honor at the 15th annual James Beard Foundation gala Monday night. The award is the culinary equivalent of an "Oscar." Pepin received the James Beard lifetime achievement award at the Monday affair in New York. Pepin, who teaches at the French Culinary Institute in New York and at Boston University, once served as the personal chef to Charles de Gaulle. He also was a longtime consultant for the Howard Johnson's chain and worked in several New York restaurants, including the Russian Tea Room. As for Greene, she helped change the way New Yorkers think about food in her role as critic for New York Magazine. Greene's memoir, Insatiable, will be published in spring 2006 by Warner Books. She joked that she loved having the last word in a review and was not pleased to be spotted in restaurants or given extra treats. It's likely, joked Pepin, that the proprietor would prefer to slip her poison.