James Peterson grew up in northern California and pursued a degree in Chemistry at UC Berkeley. After his studies, he traveled around the world, working his way from Japan to Hong Kong, to Bangkok, to India and eventually, by land, to Europe. It was while living with a family in the south of France that he found his calling, inspired by the French attitude toward food and drink.
Eventually, Jim settled in France and worked at two of what were France’s greatest restaurants at the time, George Blanc in the Bresse district, and Vivarois in Paris. It was largely his experiences in these restaurants that shaped his style of cooking and his pursuit of cuisine as a career.
By a series of serendipitous events, James found himself a partner in a small restaurant in Greenwich Village, called Le Petit Robert. It was at this small French restaurant that he was able to experiment and invent and shape his own style of cooking. The restaurant was critically acclaimed and, according to Gourmet magazine, was “what may be the most creative restaurant in New York.” It was no doubt in part because of his extravagant use of truffles and foie gras, that the restaurant was eventually forced to close in 1984. At a loss, Jim started teaching cooking at the French Culinary Institute and later, at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School, now ICE.
It was after translating a series of French pastry books from French to English, that Jim established a relationship with a publisher who encouraged him to write his own book. His first book, Sauces, was published in 1991 and continues to sell as well now as it did the first year after publication. It won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year award—like winning an Oscar for best actor--and put James Peterson on the map as a serious writer and teacher. Other books soon followed: Splendid Soups, nominated for both a James Beard and IACP award, Fish and Shellfish, again nominated for both awards and a winner of an IACP award, Vegetables, winner of a James Beard award, the Essentials of Cooking, nominated for both awards.
It was at some point while working on Fish and Shellfish that James Peterson started photographing the images for his own books. Jim is now a professional photographer and not only photographs the images for his own books but photographs for both commercial and editorial clients.
After the publication of Essentials of Cooking, James wrote and photographed a series of small full color books about single foods and subjects. These include Simply Salmon, The Duck Cookbook, Sweet Wines, and Simply Shrimp. His most recent books include What’s a Cook to Do? a collection of kitchen tips and a full-color general cookbook meant for beginning and moderate-level cooks, the definitive Cooking. Cooking won a James Beard award for best general cookbook. Jim’s more recent book, Baking has been acclaimed in the Washington Post and the L.A. Times. Baking won a James Beard award for best in its category. Latest, are Meat: A Kitchen Education and Kitchen Simple. Meat won a James Beard award. Kitchen Simple was to follow. Finally, there is Done, a definitive guide to when foods are done.