A Kitchen in Burgundy
We’re the last to arrive at the Alain Hess Cheesemonger on the edge of Beaune market. Timeliness has never been a strong suit, and in this instance I was side-tracked by a tempting boulangerie. A small group has gathered outside the shop and standing at the centre are two ladies with beaming smiles, dressed in linen. I recognise them at once as Marjorie and Kendall, the mother daughter team behind The Cook’s Atelier. A girlfriend and I are booked in for a day’s immersive cookery experience at their school in Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy’s Cote’d’Or. Brief introductions are made, before Marjorie and Kendall whisk us off for a whirlwind tour of the bustling Saturday market.
Thankfully, Beaune market fulfils all the prerequisites of a French market in June. Piles of white asparagus, mountains of globe artichokes, baskets heaving with freshly baked baguettes and stalls cascading with fat, red cherries. Marjorie and Kendall introduce us to a few of their favourite producers. Some of whom are even featured in their cookery book, published last year.
After the market tour, our group of newly-made friends chatters its way back to Rue de Lorraine, home to The Cook’s Atelier headquarters. We’re greeted by pots of peonies, scrupulously polished copper pans, a table laden with fresh produce and a gleaming Lacanche ready for action. After a quick cappuccino, made by Kendall’s husband Laurent in the vintage espresso machine, we’re put to work. Moments later Marjorie is expertly demonstrating the art of Choux. I find myself brushing morels with the ladies of the group; while my friend is at the other end of the work bench, surrounded by the men watching in awe while she’s confidently French ties a côte de veau. Also on the menu are cheese gougeres, and a seasonal strawberry cake.
Two hours of leisurely work whizzes by before Kendall leads us upstairs to a meticulously set dining table, with blousy peonies, classic bone-handled china, and little brioche tins doubling up as tealight holders. It’s a very charming scene. Kendall pours us all a glass of champagne and we’re finally allowed to sample a cheese-topped gougeres. What follows is a blissfully long five-course French lunch.
As lifelong Francophiles, Marjorie and Kendall started The Cook’s Atelier in 2008 and it’s been quite a journey to build the beautifully curated shop and cookery school we see before us today. Kendall had already been living and working in France for a few years and was completing a course in Viticulture. Marjorie had been running a small restaurant and cookery school in Arizona, but the time had come to move on. She sold practically everything she owned and moved to France to join her daughter. Together they launched their cookery school, and for the last ten years it’s gone from strength to strength. It’s a story of grit, determination and above all, passion. Their deeply ingrained love of French culture and food shines though and makes The Cook’s Atelier such a success.
The lunch is truly delicious and as I indulge in one final piece of cheese, it strikes me how different all the guests are. Among the group is a grocery store owner from Sydney, an architect from Oregon and a particularly jovial real estate agent from Las Vegas. Somehow, here we are, enjoying a laughter-filled meal, as though we’re old friends. Our politics, backgrounds and cultures couldn’t be more different, and yet we’ve come together for a feast in this beautiful kitchen in Burgundy.