By Anne Willan
The kitchen of the title is in a 17th-century château called Le Fëy, high on a hill in Burgundy. From this vantage point, Anne Willan— long known as an authority on French regional cuisine, on food history, and on classic French cooking—has written a personal book, elegantly interweaving chapters on her life in the chateau with journeys out into the surrounding landscape. She examines the work of the people of Château du Fëy and its surrounding quarters: the gardeners, farmers, vintners, and restaurateurs who live and breathe French cuisine, and who contribute to the character and flavors of the Burgundian table.
Foremost in the cast of characters in Anne Willan: From My Château Kitchen is M. Milbert, gardien and gardener, who will pick no vegetable before its time. But there is also Claude the water man, who looks after pipes and plumbing for both village and château, and who figures prominently in the group of local hunters who follow the age-old rules of la chasse. We are introduced to M. Simon, the blacksmith with a network of cellars under a nearby cathedral, where he makes ratafia. And M. Haumonte teaches traditional bread and croissant making using the château's wood-fired oven. There is the lady from Morvan who makes 500 varieties of jam, the beekeeper, and the father and son with the traveling cider press. Anne Willan takes us through the countryside, to markets in Sens, to the makers of mustard and spice bread in Dijon, to Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, where Leslie Caron presides over an establishment serving Burgundian fare, and to Joigny, where Lorain father and son reign in 3-star splendor.
Anne has chosen to share recipes for the dishes she cooks and eats at home, including such classics as Leek Quiche, Oeufs en Meurette, and Jambon Chablisien. There are also recipes that cope with the garden's staggering bounty, such as Spiced Red Currant Jelly and Gratin of Summer Vegetables in Herb Pesto. Other recipes are brought by the chefs who cook at the La Varenne school—including Snail and Mushroom Ravioli with Parsley Sauce and Dried Fig and Marc Ice Cream.
In almost 300 color photographs and with more than 160 recipes, Anne Willan renders an intimate appreciation of both the food and the culture of Burgundy. As this beautiful and personal book proves, Anne Willan has succeeded marvelously in her chosen (and enviable) task of exploring, understanding, and teaching the art of French cuisine as it manifests itself in one of France's most food-oriented provinces. Which just happens to be her back—and front—yard.
Anne Willan blends the romantic and the level-headed in a unique way. She appreciates the sensuous delights of life as only a reformed puritan can. She tells the story of her love affair with France and French food in terms of real people and places: the cooking classes in Paris, the run-down chateau, the growing friendships with local farmers and shopkeepers, the cheese-makers and truffle-hunters, the fascinating neighbors—all this is a showcase in which Anne sets out her favorite recipes. This is food in context, and a context to make Francophiles everywhere rejoice.
— Hugh Johnson
In this tender and thrilling book, Anne Willan invites us to share her love affair with Château du Fëy and Burgundy. Between the delicious recipes she offers an insight into a region with a rich past and long-rooted traditions. The affectionate eye she casts on the local characters and their stories provides an intimate portrait of the not-quite-vanished world of rural France.
— Claudia Roden
Anne Willan has had an extraordinary career in the culinary arts and is established as one of America's preeminent authorities on French cooking. She is president of the Ecôle de Cuisine La Varenne, which she founded in Paris in 1975 and which is now based in Burgundy at Château du Fëy. She is also director of La Varenne at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. Anne has more than 30 years' experience as a teacher, cookbook author, culinary historian, and food columnist. Her many books include the prize-winning La Varenne Pratique and the Look & Cook volumes featured in the 26-part PBS series. Her most recent book is Cook It Right. Anne has served as president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (which honored her in 1999 with its Lifetime Achievement Award) and she is on the Board of the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa, California.
From My Château Kitchen
By Anne Willan
Clarkson Potter, March 2000
304 pages with color photographs
Information provided by the publisher.
This page created May 2000
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