Marjorie Taylor founded The Cook’s Atelier with her daughter, Kendall, to celebrate their mutual love for all things French – food, markets, family traditions and a life rich in simplicity. Simple, fresh and seasonal is the mantra at their boutique cooking school, tucked away on a tiny street in Beaune, France, where every day they teach others to cook. They also use the workshop space to celebrate the connection between the farm and the kitchen, leading market tours and field trips to artisan food producers.
Read on and find out how Marjorie and Kendall started The Cook’s Atelier, her cooking philosophy and the ingredients she always has in her kitchen.
Who or what inspired you to start cooking? How did you get started?
I have always enjoyed cooking but began to take it more seriously in my late 20’s. I was inspired to be a better cook because I enjoyed having friends and family come together around good food and conversation. It was important for me to learn the classic French techniques and I studied under noted cookbook author, Anne Willan at La Varenne. 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.
What’s the story behind The Cook’s Atelier? How did it become the multi-use workshop it is?
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 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 in June 2011. The Cook’s Atelier is really a collaboration between the two of us and a reflection of our combined passions.
What is it that attracts you to the lifestyle in France? What have you learned from living there and observing it?
The food, the markets, the fact that you slow down, the long lunches. People take more time for the things I feel are important, such as having dinner with family and kids coming home from school for lunch.
What is unique or special about French cooking to you?
I love the techniques. For any level of cook the key component is learning techniques and understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s always about the quality of ingredients, making things from scratch and cooking with the seasons.
You work with your daughter Kendall every day. How have your family ties affected your business?
Being a close mother and daughter team, it was important for Kendall and me to live on the same side of the pond and create strong family roots. 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. The Cook’s Atelier is always evolving and we are excited about our latest venture: The Larder, which is an online shop featuring all the things we love.
What is your food and cooking philosophy?
Our philosophy is all about simplicity and the quality of the ingredients. We encourage you to visit your local farmers’ market and base your menu on what looks good and what’s in season. If possible, turn a little portion of your yard into a kitchen garden or at least try to plant some herbs. Always cook with the seasons, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the process.
What are your favorite authentic French dishes to cook?
We love to cook the classic French dishes like boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, the perfect French tart and a simple roasted chicken. Our menus are always market-inspired and we tend to use a lot of fresh herbs and keep the flavors light.
You’re passionate about supporting the connection between the farmer and the cook. Why do you think that relationship is important, and what can people take away from it?
The Cook’s Atelier is a magical place where people come together to celebrate real food, made from scratch. We honor the relationships that we have with the people who spend their lives growing good food and the traditions passed down from generations of cooks. It’s a unique experience that fosters the connection between the farmer and the cook. We feel that this is something we all need to protect, wherever you live, as there is nothing more important than knowing and supporting the people who grow our food.
What ingredients do you grow?
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 in the garden we have winter squash, beets, potatoes, chicories, and mustard greens. We also have apple, pear and walnut trees so we’re always canning and preserving.
What are your favorite classes to teach?
It’s hard to pick a favorite. All of our programs are unique and personalized depending on the interest of the client. We might spend a day learning about charcuterie and visiting our friend, Monsieur Vossot for an impromptu lesson on tête de veau or visit Madame Loichet’s potager to pick up fruit for an afternoon confiture class. After the cooking class, the clients sit down to a five-course lunch with wine in a relaxing and convivial environment. For the more serious cook, we offer “a cook’s workshop” as a one, three or five day program.
What do you hope people walk away with after taking your classes?
We hope that we inspire them to take what they have learned here and apply it to their own kitchen. Most importantly, we hope that we inspire them to cook.
What is your most prized kitchen possession?
My favorite kitchen possession is my Lacanche stove. Second on the list would have to be my vintage copper confiture pot. Oh, and my vintage mezzaluna.
Q: What is the best kitchen advice you have ever received? And the best you’ve ever given?
One of my favorite quotes is “jump and the net will follow”. It’s not really kitchen advice, but that simple statement helped us create The Cook’s Atelier. For my students, I try to encourage them to use their senses rather than a timer. As you become a better cook, adapt a recipe and make it your own. Slow down and read and educate yourself – and practice, practice, practice. You can’t make a mistake, just enjoy the process.
What do you cook to relax?
When it’s time to relax, I pour myself a glass of wine and enjoy a “poet’s dinner”: fresh cheese, bread and simple salad from the garden.
What is always in your kitchen at home?
Butter. Lots of French butter. Also farm eggs and fresh herbs.
What’s one dish you could eat over and over again?
The heirloom tomato salad. I love that salad and could eat it all the time. I think I moved to France because of their tomatoes — they are so amazing.