Marjorie, who hails from Phoenix, Arizona, fell in love with France and now calls Beaune her home. She created The Cook’s Atelier after a number of years in the restaurant game in the U.S. and now runs the workshops, assisted by her daughter, Kendall, who has formal qualifications in wine making. Marjorie conducts her classes with an obvious passion for the food she is cooking, a professional informality and a focus on seasonal and local produce that uses ethical and sustainable production methods.
The menus are market inspired and highlight the local artisan producers such as Madame Loichet, who brings produce from her garden to the Saturday market; Vossot the boucher; Madame Petit, the elderly egg woman at the weekly market and Monsieur Ménager, of La ferme de la Ruchotte, who raises heritage breeds of chicken and black pigs from the Gascony.
She teaches her classes in English, providing hints and tips on exploring french cooking techniques and Kendall providing information on the beautiful Burgundian wines. Marjorie will tailor the program to suit the individual based on their experience and preferences, including one-on-one classes, groups, market tours or simply just lunch or dinner with the cook.
Whatever you choose, most of all she insists you relax and enjoy the experience while having fun. My class is a one day workshop that includes lunch for two based on the fruits of my labour and Steve is there to document the class with his camera.
Marjorie begins by sharing the back story of how she came to be in Beaune operating a cook’s atelier and describing how the day will progress. Given that we have a very full day ahead of us, the normal approach of cracking open a bottle of Cremant de Bourgogne at this point is temporarily postponed. As it turned out, not for long!. The gougères are cooked, and in traditional French fashion, the bottle is cracked open mid morning.
Our menu for the day is, traditional gougères (a savoury choux pastry), a great match to the Cremant; orange, fennel and radish salad; pommes dauphinoise; filet of canard from Monsieur Vosset’s; blood orange sorbet; Monsieur Hess’ cheese selection and lemon cream tart with soft cream.
After we finish the cooking, the entire menu is presented to us as a mid-afternoon lunch (based on French time) delivered by Marjorie and Kendall, while we sit under an antique chandelier at a beautifully set dining table. The meal is accompanied by a perfect bottle of Burgundian pinot noir, finishing with coffee and fleur de sel chocolate cookies, completing the restaurant-quality experience.
The cream on white workshop in the 17th century apartment is flooded with natural light. It streams through the French windows into the kitchen, a compact space dominated by Marjorie’s pride and joy, a six-burner double Lacanche oven (in a rich cream colour, of course). Marjorie’s use of French collectible kitchen implements and equipment gives an authenticity to this back to basics experience. Cooking with ingredients that have been sourced direct from the producers or from the markets, right outside the front door earlier in the day completes this idyllic picture.
Did I mention the food? It is above restaurant quality. The duck filet is probably the best I have had, tender and full of flavour; the potatoes dauphinoise are to die for (and you just might with the amount of fat), but what a way to go! The intensity in flavour and colour of the food comes from using seasonally fresh and locally grown products while using traditional french cooking techniques.
The ingredients of passion and love for the produce, a beautiful setting and great company – a recipe for a perfect day.
Makes about 30 x 5cm hors d’oeuvres
1 ¼ cups water
10 tblsp unsalted butter
1 tspn sea salt