Day 43: A Visit to The Cook's Atelier (featured in F&W!)
Happy Friday everyone!! I know everyone's crazy busy getting ready for the holidays, but I have a favor to ask of you. Go out and buy the January 2014 issue of Food & Wine. It's on the newsstands now, and there's a very special story inside about two of my favorite people: Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini, the talented mother-daughter duo behind The Cook's Atelier, in Beaune, France.
So why is this story so exciting? For one, I wrote it! Writing for Food & Wine has been a career-long goal, and I'm pinching myself that I got a chance to write a feature. But two, this represents a dream fulfilled for Marjorie and Kendall. With creativity, tenacity, and lots of elbow grease, they've created their own mini-culinary empire in Beaune – and even more importantly, they've created a business built around their family (rather than the other way around). You know that quote I shared with you all awhile back, "You can make a wish, or you can make it happen?" Well, they've made it happen, and I could not be more proud of them.
The story focuses on the fact that The Cook's Atelier recently expanded from Marjorie's one-bedroom apartment into a gorgeous new 3-story space in the heart of Beaune. The new epicurean center houses AP Wine, a wine shop specializing in small producers from France, Italy, and Germany, The French Larder, a retail shop that sells vintage cooking tools and local artisan foods, a spacious teaching kitchen (with an 8-burner Lacanche stove), and an intimate third-floor private dining space. The F&W spread includes beautiful pictures of Marjorie and Kendall and their new space, plus a bunch of their fabulous, wintry recipes (like coq au vin and a chicory salad with cèpes) and a list of their favorite foodie spots in and around Beaune. (Warning: you'll want to jump on a plane immediately and head to France.)
To give a little backstory: I first met Marjorie back in 2006. We were stagiares together at La Varenne, and we spent three months sharing a room and working together at Chateau du Fey. Marjorie was already an accomplished chef at that point - she had worked for years as a pastry chef, and had run a restaurant/cooking school in Phoenix. Her daughter Kendall was living in Paris at the time, so Marjorie's goal was eventually to move to France to be near her. That summer, the three of us became close friends. I'll never forget visiting Beaune with them one weekend - Kendall had an interview with Kermit Lynch (she later worked for them), and we all fell in love with the charming little town. Over endless glasses of crémant (Burgundy's sparkling wine), we dreamed together of how one day Marjorie and Kendall would open some sort of little inn or cooking school in the French countryside, and I'd become a food writer - and write about them! It's funny how over seven years later, our dreams came true. (You can read more about their inspiring story here, in a Q&A I did with Marjorie.)
Since La Varenne, I've visited Marjorie and Kendall in France nearly every year, and have watched them build up The Cook's Atelier, little by little. Kendall married her husband Laurent back in 2010 (their wedding was gorgeous!) and have since added two littles to the family: Luc and Manon. Laurent now runs the wine shop at the new culinary center, and the kids are almost always there as well, so it's truly a family business. I was there most recently in June, and got to meet Manon for the first time (she was just a few months old!) and finally attend one of their popular market cooking classes.
The classes start out in the morning, at the Beaune Market, where Marjorie and Kendall take students around to their favorite producers. After gathering all of the ingredients, everyone heads back to the Atelier to don aprons and get to work. Marjorie does most of the teaching, with Kendall floating around to assist students. The dishes are all seasonal and Burgundy-influenced, with ingredients and wine sourced locally.
After the meal is prepared, everyone gathers for warm gougeres (Burgundy's famous cheese puffs) and crémant, while Kendall talks about the wines that will be served with lunch. Everyone then sits down for a beautiful 4-course lunch and by the end of the afternoon the students - who come from all over the world - are like old friends. Truly, the place is magic. If I weren't already good friends with Marjorie and Kendall, I'm sure I'd be plotting and scheming how to go work for them!
If you have a chance to visit France this year, do yourself a favor and stop off in Beaune for a few days. Sign up for one of The Cook's Atelier's Market Tours & Classes, or even better, do one of their multi-day Cook's Workshops (dates here). Just be careful: you won't want to leave.
(Photos by Anna Watson Carl.