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(Photo/Joann Pai)

Rebekah Peppler ’08, had an idea when she was an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh that she wanted to “be a cookbook author” or, at least, “write about food.”

Rebekah Peppler

Mission accomplished, to say the least.

The UWO alumna originally from Oshkosh recently had her third cookbook published, this one celebrating the cuisine, culture and stories of the book’s namesake—Le Sud, or the vibrant, Mediterranean-lining south of France and coastal points east and west.

“I really wanted to dive into that region that is France and Italy to the region where the Rhone River marks its western edge; there is a really special magic and mystique to it,” Peppler said carving out some interview time this month before diving into an early morning food styling assignment in New York. “I wanted to see it through a journalist’s perspective… I was a journalist at UWO. I pursue all my books as knowing just enough but wanting to learn more… There is also so much more that I really wanted to capture through recipes and imagery and text in the book.”

Rebekah Peppler, left, gives credit to her mentor, UWO instructor Grace Lim.

If ever a student (or skeptic) wondered what career one can craft with the trio of Journalism degree and English and Art History minors, Peppler certainly has an answer, having shaped an elegant, entrepreneurial and unique recipe of a career exploring and capturing food and culture.

Oshkosh book signing

Now a resident of Paris, France, she will be in Oshkosh on Wednesday, May 22 for a Le Sud book signing at Elsewhere Market and Coffee House. It’s part her new cookbook’s national tour (the official title is Le Sud: Recipes from Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur). The 6 p.m. event also will feature an author conversation facilitated by Peppler’s former UWO instructor and mentor Grace Lim.

“It’s starting in New York and ending in L.A.,” Peppler said. “There are a lot of cities in between, and one of them very actively is going to be Oshkosh.”

Peppler is a distinguished Titan and a highly regarded and recognized author in her field. She earned the University’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2012 just a few years after graduating.

After attaining her bachelor’s degree, Peppler headed to New York City, completing the classic pastry arts program at the French Culinary Institute. Her career began in 2009 as the dessert contributor and web/editorial assistant at Saveur magazine. CBS News hired her as a culinary adviser and researcher for Cooking Channel programs thereafter.

Then, as her career as freelance writer and food stylist with national publications evolved, came the dazzling cookbooks.

In 2019, she was honored as a nominee for the James Beard Award in the Restaurant and Chef, Media and Restaurant Design Categories for her book, Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way.

À Table followed, published in April 2021. And now, Le Sud is on the streets.

(Photo/Joann Pai)

“I’m an author, and I’m also a writer,” Peppler said, when asked to encapsulate a typical-never-typical day on the job, sharing her talent and crafting so unique a career. “… And then of course I’m on book tour right now. As we’re talking, I’m upstate styling another person’s cookbook. Today, I’m juggling a few different things… I’m going to go downstairs in 15 minutes and be on set… I have a call for the tour later today… That’s the beauty of it. The privilege of being a working writer right now is I have a lot of different deadlines right now. Obviously before the book was finished, I was hyperfocused on writing and got into a routine of waking up early and getting a cup of coffee and sitting down with the book and manuscript and writing.”

Peppler said she never followed a tightly structured academic recipe to get her to this point in her career and journey. She said she knew journalism at UWO would be an ingredient. She counts Lim as one of “a lot of incredible professors at UWO. I was fortunate. But I still remember walking into her classroom and feeling, ‘This is going to be something different and special…’ She was an influence in my taking a big leap and following this path of being an author.”

“I knew I wanted to write about food,” Peppler said. “I’m sure pretty early on I told (Lim) I wanted to a cookbook author. I didn’t see how to get to that end goal… I always knew I wasn’t going to be hard news, but I thought it was important to have that background and understanding.”

Her UWO experiences abroad, too, shaped her world view, Peppler said.

“I lived at home for my first two years to save up money,” Peppler said, reflecting on a first study abroad experience with Journalism Professor Tim Gleason in Cambridge, England. “It was such an incredible experience and was eye-opening to get that UWO education at such a storied university. And also, outside the classroom, we’d travel on weekends and explore new foods and languages. It opened my mind up in a way that was important for me especially.”

Peppler also engaged in another study abroad experience in Rome studying ancient and baroque art, and that revealed a lesson: “If you must have a major that is very professional, do a minor in something you love and want to know more about,” she said.

She encourages students to consider her steppingstone philosophy and approach to crafting a rewarding, fulfilling career.

“When you’re in the middle of it, you can’t see the end. You see the steppingstones to where you want to go. I always had big dreams, and I was lucky enough to have the support to follow those dreams. I never knew where it was going to go. I took the leap and had the support to get to the next steppingstone.”

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