Inspiring lessons and delicious dishes from the mother-daughter duo behind Burgundy's newest cooking school and wine shop.
"We have this guy at the market who sells the most beautiful mushrooms," says Marjorie Taylor, co-owner of The Cook's Atelier (thecooksatelier.com), a new culinary center in Beaune, Burgundy. "I mean, they're this big!" she holds her hands out as though clutching a small melon. "he won't tell me what his name is, so I just call him Monsieur M.
I think he's afraid we'll find his source." During class, students learn how to clean the giant cèpe mushrooms ("Wipe with a damp towel, never rinse!"), cook them (slice thinly and sauté) and serve them (with chicories in a warm shallot–sherry vinegar dressing). "The trick with mushrooms," instructs Taylor, "is not to move them around in the pan. Let them sit for a while, so they get nice and brown."
Before moving to France, Taylor ran a popular restaurant and cooking school in Phoenix. But after spending a summer in Burgundy in 2006, working with famed cookbook author Anne Willan, she fell in love with the local food: hearty dishes made with Charolais beef, free-range chicken, escargots, fresh cream and bold farmhouse cheeses like Soumaintrain. Two years later, she opened The Cook's Atelier with her daughter, Kendall Smith Franchini, who was working in Burgundy with Berkeley-based wine importer Kermit Lynch.
Last July, the two women moved their school from Taylor's tiny apartment into a beautifully restored 17th-century building in the heart of Beaune. The Cook's Atelier now encompasses a wine shop specializing in small-production wines; an épicerie selling artisan foods and vintage cooking tools; a teaching kitchen; and a private dining room where they host dinner parties and Slow Food gatherings. The centerpiece of the large kitchen is a gleaming white, seven-burner, two-oven Lacanche range, handcrafted in a nearby village. In class, Taylor does most of the teaching, while Franchini discusses her favorite Burgundy winemakers and vintages. She pairs each dish with a wine from the shop, like the 2011 Château de Chamirey Mercurey Rouge, a bright Pinot Noir that goes well with the region's classic, rich bacon-and-garlic-spiked coq au vin. Business partner Bill Friedberg, a 40-year wine-industry veteran, fills the store with bottles from small-production wineries in France, Italy and Germany.
Classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays start with an insider's tour of the Beaune farmers' market, where Taylor and Franchini introduce students to farmers and producers and stock up on lunch ingredients. In class, Taylor guides students through each step and suggests how to adapt the dishes back home. To make the luxuriously creamy veal stew blanquette de veau, for instance, students prepare a rich white veal stock; Taylor suggests homemade chicken stock as a substitute. Or she might show them how to tweak the coq au vin, braising the chicken in white Burgundy instead of red for a lighter springtime dish.
Taylor and Franchini also run new five-day workshops that offer a more in-depth look at Burgundian food culture. "We might spend a day foraging or jam-making, and a day at a farm working with our friend Yan making cheese or milking goats," Taylor says. "Our goal is to give people a real farm-to-cook connection—and a peek into what it's like to live in Burgundy."
Manhattan-based cook Anna Watson Carl writes the blog The Yellow Table and is working on a cookbook.