Marjorie Taylor knows a thing or two about hosting a dinner party with a distinctly French air. As the co-owner and chef at The Cook’s Atelier, a boutique cooking school and workshop space in Beaune, France, she regularly entertains and creates warm, intimate and festive meals for friends, family and students.
We asked Marjorie for her tips to hosting a great dinner party, what makes a French dinner party distinct and to tell us about her favorite party (hint: it involves a field of sunflowers).
What are your tips for hosting a great dinner party?
The most important thing is to enjoy the preparation process. Don’t try to cook things that are too difficult. Cook with the seasons. Pour yourself a glass of wine before your guests arrive.
How do French dinner parties differ from American dinner parties?
The apéritif is a favorite of the French dinner party. Small bites such as gourgeres or saussion accompany a glass of champagne and guests mingle before being seated for the long dinner party. In France, dinner can last for hours and we love this tradition of enjoying good food with family and friends.
How do you decide your menu?
We always base our menu on what’s in season and what looks good at the market.
How many guests do you usually feed?
We like to keep our dinner parties at about 10 people.
How can home chefs re-create a French dinner party at home?
It’s easy, put your focus on the quality of the ingredients and the atmosphere. Be sure to spend the time with your guests rather than creating a menu that keeps you in the kitchen the entire party.
What are some of your favorite seasonal menus and wine pairings?
We are really lucky here in Burgundy because Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are so food friendly. We really are partial to French wines and match the style of the food with the wines from the region. For example, if we are making Boeuf Bourgignon or Coq au Vin, we choose wines from Burgundy. For salad niçoise, we choose a rosé from the Bandol region. We feel that wine pairing is easy if you pair your food and wine from the region.
How often do you entertain?
Every single day. If we are not conducting cooking classes or private dinner parties, we enjoy entertaining family and friends at our atelier.
My absolutely favorite dinner party really wasn’t a dinner per se. It was a “sunflower picnic” in honor of an upcoming big birthday.
All photos courtesy of The Cook’s Atelier. To see more photos of the spectacular sunflower picnic, visit The Cook’s Atelier blog.