With hundreds of cooking shows to choose from today, perhaps they can all thank one of the first chefs to popularize and even glamorize culinary art, Jacques Pépin. 

Chef Pépin visited UMass Dartmouth on Wednesday afternoon, where he toured the campus, spoke with UMass and New Bedford Voc-Tech culinary students, and answered questions from some of his older fans.

The French chef, now 80, grew up in a cooking household, with his inspiration coming especially from his mother. During his press conference at UMass, Pépin said he was destined to become a chef. The thought of becoming a lawyer or doctor never entered the master chef's mind.

Pépin held a number of prestigious positions, such as the personal chef for three French presidents from 1956 to 1958. He moved to America in 1959, where he began working in New York City and earned a B.A. in General Studies and a master's degree in French Literature from Columbia University.

After living in the United States for almost 60 years, Pépin said he could never live in another country again, except for vacations of course.

Pépin described the culture shift for chefs since he started out. There were no Hell's Kitchen or Iron Chef for culinary artists back then. While Pépin cooked for French officials, he said, "...the cook was at the bottom of the social scale."

Praise was hard to come by, and that was the message Pépin had for the aspiring chefs listening in the audience. He said most chefs won't get their own cooking show, or even many compliments.

"You have to get into the business for that. You know, for the love of cooking," Pépin said. The big payoff for a chef is sharing your dishes and knowing people are enjoying it.

Voc-Tech culinary student Nicholas Daniels says he was nervous to meet Pépin, but the experience was well worth it.