Q&A with Marjorie Taylor of The Cook's Atelier
I love "dreams come true" stories. And I especially love "dreams come true" stories that take place in France! So, with Mother's Day just a few days away, I want to introduce you all to my dear friends Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Franchini, the mother-daughter duo behind The Cook's Atelier. Based in beautiful Beaune, France, Marjorie and Kendall introduce students to the best of Burgundy's seasonal produce, cheeses, meats, and breads, with farmers' market tours, artisan visits, and hands-on cooking classes at The Cook's Atelier.
Marjorie and I met back in 2006 as roommates at La Varenne, and we were both dreaming of how we could stay in France. She was already an accomplished chef at the time (with a restaurant and a cooking school in the States already under her belt) and Kendall, living in Paris at the time, had decided to pursue a career in wine. Funny enough, the three of us took a weekend trip to Beaune that year and we all fell completely in love with the town (never dreaming they would eventually live there!).
But the stars aligned for these talented ladies and they managed to make their dream of living and working in France come true. They are now extremely busy, with packed cooking classes, a new baby for Kendall (and a wonderful husband Laurent), their own potager (vegetable garden), exciting collaborations with Kinfolk and Williams-Sonoma, and a video in the works with the talented Tiger in a Jar team. Oh, and a cookbook to come! Marjorie's also a beautiful photographer (as evidenced by her pictures in this post) – make sure to check out her blog for more.
If you ever have a chance to go to Burgundy (and you absolutely should!), by all means take a class at The Cook's Atelier. From the moment you walk in and you see the lovely table, beautifully set for dinner (and overlooking the rooftops of Beaune), you'll think things can't get any better. But wait, it does. Marjorie will give you a glass of local bubbly and a warm gougere and you might just decide, like them, never to leave. But don't let me tell their story, read on for all the fun details from Marjorie herself. And get ready to cook afterward, as she's shared a fantastic spring recipe with fresh asparagus and soft poached egg. Bon appetit!
Where are you from?
I was born in Phoenix, Arizona but have family in New York and Seattle.
When did you start cooking?
I have always enjoyed cooking but began to take it more seriously in my late 20’s.
What inspired you to become a cook?
I was inspired to be a better cook because I enjoyed having friends and family come together around good food and conversation. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I knew I wanted my focus to be around food. It was important for me to learn the classic French techniques. I began my career as a pastry cook and worked myself up the ladder to become a pastry chef and later opened my own award winning, neighborhood restaurant and cooking school in Phoenix before moving to France.
So how did you end up in Burgundy, France?
Actually, I always knew I would end up in France. Kendall, my daughter and the second half of The Cook’s Atelier, is the real Francophile. She’s been in France for 10 years plus. Her love of France began at an early age. She studied French and Art History at university and then lived in Paris and worked at Christie’s. At the same time, I decided that I wanted to travel and work in France to further my culinary education. In 2006 I came to France to work with Anne Willan at her chateau in Burgundy. Shortly after, Kendall caught the wine bug and decided to move to Beaune to study viticulture at the CFPPA and ultimately worked for Kermit Lynch, an American wine importer. At some point the “light bulb” went off and I realized she was never coming back to the States. I knew that someday, because of her love of France, that my future grandchildren would be French even though she had not yet found “the One." I was so inspired by my experience working with Anne Willan that I returned to the States, sold everything, and moved to Beaune. My hunch paid off and as fairytales go, Kendall did find her very own Frenchman and my first grandchild, Luc, was born last June. Heaven.
How did The Cook's Atelier come to be?
Being a close mother and daughter team, it was important for for Kendall and me to live on the same side of the pond and create strong family roots. The time had come to bring together our combined passions and create the life we had always dreamed of. A life where every day was a reflection of our true values and hearts' desires. Since we are both very entrepreneurial, we decided to create a business that would reflect our love of all things French; food, markets, family traditions and a life rich in simplicity with a focus on what really matters - family. We founded The Cook’s Atelier with the intention of creating a special place that supports the connection between the farmer and the cook and where people from all over the world could come together, learn to cook, and have a good time.
You are such an inspiration! What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a dream that seems impossible?
No dreams are impossible. You just have to work hard to get where you want to go. A favorite quote I love is “jump and the net will follow."
What is the biggest challenge of working for yourself?
Wearing all the hats.
Who are your culinary inspirations?
Alice Waters, Eric Ripert, Thomas Keller, Judy Rodgers, Suzanne Goin, Elizabeth David, M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child, of course.
I know you are passionate about farmers markets. What's in season right now in Burgundy that you're excited about?
We are really excited about cooking with the seasons and much of our produce comes from our garden at Clos de la Cozanne (our potager at Kendall’s house). Right now at the market there are fava beans, artichokes, white and green asparagus, spring peas, Gariguette strawberries, morels and green garlic.
Any upcoming projects that you want to share?
We are very excited to be part of the Kinfolk community. We recently had the pleasure of spending a couple days working with the very talented couple behind Tiger in a Jar. We are currently working on a collaboration around our favorite artisan food producers. We are also working on a upcoming project for Williams-Sonoma about Burgundy, and The Cook’s Atelier cookbook is now officially in the works.
If you had to throw an impromptu dinner for eight tonight, what would you make?
Spring salad with asparagus, garden radishes, a slice of San Daniele and a soft cooked farm egg
Monsieur Vossot’s leg of lamb with fava beans, fennel and artichokes
A selection of artisan cheese
Strawberry tartlette with soft cream
MARJORIE'S SPRING SALAD WITH ASPARAGUS, FARM EGG, AND CHERVIL
For the salad:
Handful of thin, white asparagus, peeled
Handful of thin, green asparagus, peeled
4 pieces of prosciutto di San Daniele, thinly sliced
4 farm eggs, soft boiled (*see instructions below for Julia's Oeufs Mollets)
Handful of garden radishes, sliced in half lengthwise
Fresh chervil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To make the salad, hold the asparagus spear and bend it to break off the less tender bottom end. Trim all of the asparagus to the same length and peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Line a platter with paper towels and set aside. Blanch the asparagus in batches in the boiling water until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the ice water bath to stop cooking, and drain on paper towels.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Lower the eggs into the simmering water for about 30 seconds, just to reheat. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and blot the bottoms with paper towels.
In a small bowl, add the vinegar and olive oil and stir gently to form a broken vinaigrette. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
Arrange the asparagus, prosciutto and radishes on the plate. Place the egg on top. Using a spoon, gently separate the egg in two to allow the soft yolk to pool. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette and sprinkle with fleur de sel, pepper and chervil.
*Julia’s Oeufs Mollets
This is a boiled egg with a set white and a soft yolk which can be peeled and substituted for poached eggs.
For the eggs:
2 quarts boiling water
4 eggs with uncracked shells, at room temperature
Lower the eggs into the boiling water and boil slowly for six minutes. As soon as the time is up, drain off the boiling water and run cold water into the pan for a minute to set the white, and to cool the eggs enough to remove the shells. Tap gently on a hard surface to break the shells, peel carefully under a stream of water. Just before serving, warm for a minute in a bowl of hot water.