Hi there – sorry it’s been a minute! Life (not to mention a jerk named Irma) has 86’ed a lot of our dining plans over the last several weeks. So while we’re working on new content (i.e., stuffing our faces around town), we thought we’d tell you about one of our favorite foodie experiences to date: the day-long market tour, cooking class and lunch we enjoyed last fall at The Cook’s Atelier in beautiful Beaune, France.
Founded by an American ex-pat mother-daughter duo, Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini, The Cook’s Atelier is a small cooking school and culinary/wine boutique in the heart of Beaune. About a decade ago, Marjorie and Kendall did what so many foodies and Francophiles (us included!) have dreamed but not dared do – moved to the French countryside to pursue their passion for French food and wine (and help others enjoy it as well!). Kendall’s French husband has since joined the team and manages the wine shop and culinary boutique (and can make you a killer espresso!), making The Cook’s Atelier a true family affair.
We’ve been following The Cook’s Atelier’s progress for several years (we studied abroad in the south of France with Kendall in college), so we registered for a course as soon as we decided to make Burgundy the centerpiece of our trip to France last September. While the Atelier also offers dinners and multi-day courses, its flagship experience – and the one that worked best with our itinerary – is its “Day in Burgundy” market tour, cooking class and lunch. Offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays (market days in Beaune), the Day in Burgundy begins with a tour of Beaune’s incomparable open-air farmer’s market, continues with a hands-on cooking class in the Atelier’s copper-filled kitchen, and ends with a “long French lunch” in a beautifully-appointed dining room. Capped at ten guests, the day offers an intimate, informative and indulgent insight into Burgundy’s rich culinary culture.
Shortly before 10am on a sunny Wednesday morning, we met Marjorie, Kendall and the day’s other guests in front of Fromagerie Hess, Beaune’s renowned cheese shop. Inside, we sampled a variety of local cheeses – including the infamous Epoisses, a soft, super-smelly cow’s-milk cheese – before wandering our way down the street to the farmer’s market. Despite its prominence as the center of the Burgundian wine world, Beaune is much more of a town than a city, and that community feeling was very evident at the market – everyone seemed to know one another. Marjorie and Kendall introduced us to some their favorite purveyors and artisans, several of whom generously shared samples with us. We’re still thinking of the incredible strawberries and expertly-cured meats a year later! Along the way, Marjorie and Kendall also purchased many of the ingredients that we’d use to prepare our lunch back at the Atelier.
Upon arriving in the Atelier’s kitchen, we donned aprons and got down to business. Marjorie and Kendall explained each recipe and offered helpful cooking tips as we all lent a hand in preparing each dish; from chopping vegetables to preparing batter to piping madeleines, each guest took part in preparing the day’s meal. It was exciting to see lunch begin to take shape from the ingredients we had acquired less than an hour earlier at the farmer’s market.
Once the gougères were baking and the beef was roasting, we headed upstairs to the dining room to enjoy the fruits of our (very mild) labor. Marjorie and Kendall handled the heavier lifting in finishing each course as we kicked off our meal a glass of bubbly. One by one the courses – all Burgundian classics – materialized on the beautiful zinc-topped dining table: gougères made with local Gruyère cheese, fresh tomato salad with basil, chèvre (goat cheese) and a balsamic reduction, an incredible Charolais beef roast, a large spread of cheeses from Hess, and an olive oil cake with wild strawberries and jam. The wine also flowed freely all afternoon; Kendall, who studied viticulture in Burgundy after college, perfectly paired each course with a bottle available in the shop downstairs.
Though we were all started out as strangers, the shared love of food (plus, let’s be honest, the copious amounts of wine) made fast friends of all the guests gathered around the table. Since all good things sadly must end, we eventually said our goodbyes and headed back out into Beaune. We left happy, inspired, a little drunk and a lot full, though not so much so that we couldn’t stop back at Fromagerie Hess for a selection of cheeses and a bottle of wine to enjoy as a light dinner – you only live once, after all.
If you find yourself in Beaune, we wholeheartedly recommend The Cook’s Atelier for a sophisticated yet extremely accessible and convivial foodie experience – or feel free to experience it vicariously through the Atelier’s beautiful online shop and Instagram photos as well as their forthcoming cookbook: