Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who made Oceanography and Marine Biology chic, and who proved that television could be so much more than sitcoms, hospital tearjerkers, and "courtroom dramas." Did you know that on board the Calypso, water was rationed, but wine never was? Perfectly French, non?
Jacques Torres, chocolatier extraodinaire, who looked straight into the camera and promised with a straight face that I too could manage the astounding confections he produced on Dessert Circus, and who now rules a growning chocolate retail empire in New York. He swears that chocolate is health food, and I have no reason to doubt.
Jacques Pepin, who is simply The Master of the Kitchen. He's a sprightly, accessible writer, a clear teacher, and at once absolutely resolute about what constitutes food worth eating and quite modern and flexible about making real meals at home. How can you resist a man who will, with perfect seriousness, teach you how to turn a black olive into a charming little bunny rabbit for your salad platter, in a half-dozen beautifully economical movements?
Of course, I'm also quite fond of a couple of other Jacks:
My brother, Jack, who's probably the smartest guy I've ever met, a riveting speaker, a public historian of extraordinary skill and determination, a deeply dedicated father, and creator of platters of blackened grouper so delicious that they've made more than one person glad to be alive.
And his son, my nephew Jack, who is the most gallant 11-year-old ever. He's on his second tuxedo. He's been to London and Paris, Venice and the Black Forest. He's wicked at Wii, and can quote Cole Porter; he drives his sisters insane, and charms even the most reluctant cat into a purring armful of fluff; he can't remember where his shoes are, but he'll notice if you cut your hair.
Brilliance and charm, that's what the Jacques—and the Jacks—have. How lucky I am to have them.