The Cook's Atelier
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM
“There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.” - M.F.K. Fisher
Described perfectly as a culinary destination for food and wine lovers, The Cook’s Atelier is a cooking school, curated boutique and wine shop and the perfect base for Majorie Taylor and her daughter Kendall Smith Franchini's business, a business genuinely based around food, family and France. A place in which to gather and share their passion and enjoyment of good food and great wine and of course it seems only natural that they would make Beaune their home. Their business has evolved organically playing to their strengths, the perfect connection between farm and table, gently guiding their numerous visitors through the experience. This is about sharing, guiding, teaching, enjoying together, exploring, living like a local and truly experiencing food through the passion of this perfect mother and daughter team.
Marjorie, inspired by classic French cuisine, apprenticed and worked in French restaurants for years and after having run a successful farm to table restaurant and cooking school in Arizona, in 2008 she jumped at the chance to follow her daughter Kendall - also a passionate Francophile - to France. Marjorie then spent a year investigating if it would be possible to use her years of expertise and knowledge to start a similar business in France. She went to the local markets and spoke to the producers, inspired she then started by taking a few pupils around the market and slowly but surely she built a relationship with the locals, finding her favourites whose produce spoke to her, biodynamic producers, nose to tail producers. The classes originally took place in their pied-à-terre, which nowadays you can rent as a gorgeous light filled apartment in the centre of Beaune. Kendall joined forces with Marjorie, bringing with her an expert knowledge of wine and fine dining, honed at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and Legrand Filles et Fils to name but a few. In 2013 the opportunity to expand presented itself, when their current space came on the market - exposed beams, flag stone, light flooding through the glass ceiling at the back of the building and above the garage they spotted in faded lettering the word "Atelier" - this was their sign and they knew they had to move the business to this former dress shop and expand organically and accordingly.
This expansion of their business which is an extension of their home - kids and all - has certainly had its challenges but they have adapted to the business as it has grown, even through pregnancies and small children, culminating in the family business they have today including, workshops, dinner parties, market tours and outings, a culinary boutique run by the ever charming wine expert Laurent - also Kendall's husband - housing exquisite wares, featuring an enviable wine cellar personally selected from small production wineries, making this one of the only truly independent wine shops in Beaune. A coffee bar serving the most delicious coffee, a delightful pied-à-terre and to top it all, their striking cookbook filled with 130 market inspired recipes due to be released in 2018. Spend a little time here and you will certainly understand, that for many the time spent at their Atelier is the highlight of their trip to France.
They have a very approachable air about them, every one is made to feel welcome, no matter their ability - some pupils cannot crack an egg whilst others may know a little or a lot more - but nevertheless all are made to feel welcome. Both women feel strongly that meal times are sacred, offering a chance to talk about the day. People are losing the ability to stop and enjoy a meal with friends and this is exactly what Marjorie and Kendall are hoping to inspire their pupils to do and of course to be better cooks as well, but mainly guiding their pupils to lead a better life and what better way than with the breaking of bread. The pupils often wonder if they eat like this every day and the answer is yes - food is very important, relationships are very important and some things should just take time. So on that note on Wednesdays and Saturdays - to naturally coincide with the market - ten lucky, mainly international clients, come together in their kitchen, for the lovingly nicknamed long French lunch. They shop together, they cook together, no notebooks, no pens, feel the food, add a little of this and a pinch of that, discover the alchemy of cooking, use recipes as a guide to inspiration, awaken your intuition, after which they then eat together savouring the fruits of their labour in the most divine dining room, furnished with a selection of highly curated vintage finds - eating seven courses of local artisanal produce with perfectly paired wines and within the beautiful ambient company of their new found friends.
Their cookbook - The Cook's Atelier by Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini published by Abrams which is out on the 10th April 2018 and currently available for preorder - is a true collaborative labour of love. They wanted to produce a book with recipes, techniques and stories from their cooking school - a book that celebrates the seasons, the terroir, the producers of the place they call home. A few aspects were very important to them during the creation of this book, firstly they wanted a publisher that would allow them the freedom to create a book that was a true reflection of them, their place, their space. It was also important to them that the photos in the book were not staged, but real, meaning that the photographer Anson Smart needed to come at four different times to capture each season - even bringing his family along for the photo shoots. Needless to say they ate very well during the creation of this book. The book highlights the local producers - two per season - that Marjorie and Kendall have gotten to know over their years in France. Such as the wonderful Madame Loichet, a life long gardener known for her flowers - whose spring peonies fill the Atelier when they blossom - well into her eighties, this lady is still to be found at the market selling her vegetables, herbs and of course flowers. Or Yan Lagouge, the pharmacist who became a shepherd, beautiful and real, these are the people we should be buying from. Or Babeth who makes the most divine wood fired bread baked in a repurposed gypsy caravan, rillettes from Pascal Laprée, or meat from Raphaël Vossot - the artisanal butcher.
Four hundred pages of heaven featuring many recipes that we cannot wait to try such as, Watermelon and Vineyard peach salad, Summer Berry Tart and for now heading into the cooler temperatures the Hot Cider and Orange Cake with Candied Citrus are very tempting indeed. On their own shelf they have just just six books as inspiration and learning, Larousse Gastronomique, L'Art Culinaire Francais, La Technique, two by Julia Childs and The Making of a Cook, the rest of their inspiration comes from the markets and producers that surround their beautiful region of France. "It is all about family, friends and good food". Not only does the book contain recipes and feature the producers, it also offers a guide to the techniques used as they really want to inspire their readers and pupils to cook, without being intimidated. With their team of local boys - Benjamin and his friends - that help out with baby sitting, polishing copper or whatever is needed, this business truly is a collaboration, family and their extended family working together to create a whole. Creating a life worth living, creating a future, enjoying each and every day, with good wine, good food and good company.
As they say "A meaningful life is all in the details".