Learn to Cook in France with The Cook’s Atelier & the Secrets of Their Gariguette Strawberry Tart

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I’ve known about The Cook’s Atelier for a long time; their style is just that memorable. Mother and daughter duo Marjorie and Kendall run this cooking school in the tiny (and lovely) city of Beaune, France where they’ve most recently also opened an online shop filled with new and vintage French-inspired finds.

These two make everything look like a dream, including the first strawberries of spring in this stunning Gariguette Strawberry Tart. The Gariguette strawberry is an old French variety that is both sweet and aromatic, and you should seek out an equally delicious variety for this recipe. You should also go to Beaune, France to visit with these ladies (just saying). I don’t think you’d regret this short trip from Paris, nor the memories made cooking in their sweet French kitchen. ~Maggie

Tell us about The Cook’s Atelier and what inspired you to bring your family business to life?

The Cook’s Atelier is a magical place located in the heart of Burgundy, France, and created by us, American expats Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini. We are an epicurean center, cooking school, and wine shop in the center of historic Beaune.

We first dreamed up the idea of moving to France decades ago. Family is very important to us and we wanted to create a business around the things we love and the life we wanted to live. As a cook, I chose the route of a self-taught chef and apprenticed in French restaurants as well as studying under noted teacher and cookbook author, Anne Willan. Early in my career, I opened my own French-inspired neighborhood restaurant and cooking school in the States.

For Kendall, her love of France began at an early age. She studied French and Art History at University and then found herself living in Paris and working with Christie’s Auction House. Over the years she gained an interest in wine and pursued this interest by working at Legrand Filles et Fils, a well-known wine bar in Paris. She loved this experience so much that she decided to move to Beaune to study viticulture and became a wine merchant.

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The Cook’s Atelier has been a true labor of love. We started off as a small pop-up cooking school in a tiny flat in Beaune, and were fortunate enough to receive lots of interest and good press. The majority of our clients find us by word of mouth, coming from all over the world to share in this special experience. We are beginning our seventh season! In 2013, we moved our atelier to a 17th century Beaunois building and added a retail space with cook’s tools, provisions, vintage finds, and our own line of Mauviel copper cookware. We also have a wine shop where we specialize in small production wines from France, Germany, and Italy (in addition to our cooking classes, workshops, and seasonal suppers, we also offer wine tastings by reservation).

The dream has gotten so big, we sweet-talked Laurent, Kendall’s husband and our “go- to” Frenchman, into overseeing the boutique and wine shop. As if that wasn’t enough to keep us busy, we just recently launched our online shop, The French Larder at The Cook’s Atelier.

Madame Loichet + Marjorie at the Saturday Beaune market copy

What’s a typical class like? Is it hands-on? Do you eat what you make? Tell us what it’s like to be a student.

At The Cook’s Atelier we conduct hands-on cooking classes that are informative and entertaining, as we believe that cooking should be fun. Our style of cooking is firmly rooted in classical French techniques with an emphasis on the best market-fresh, seasonal ingredients, while encouraging intuition in the kitchen.

The group begins around a long marble prep table for an introduction to the menu, then guests tie on an apron and begin cooking! We circulate during the preparation of the meal to provide guidance and impart culinary knowledge. Once the meal is complete, the group will be seated around the long zinc-topped farm table in our dining room to toast their culinary success and savor the fruits of their labor. Guests enjoy a five-course, seasonal menu paired with local wines from the region.

Our goal is to teach our students that cooking can be simple, delicious, and rewarding by making the kitchen an approachable and fun place for everyone. We hope guests will depart with experiences that will remain in their memories long after the “lesson” is concluded. We believe that cooking for others extends the heart, and we gain great satisfaction and boundless pleasure from those who enjoy and appreciate the love of good eating.

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Which class is your most popular and why do you think it is?

We offer three types of cooking classes at The Cook’s Atelier. “A Cook’s Workshop” is geared to the more serious cook.  It gives students the opportunity to learn specific skills of a French cook and includes the cook’s basics, batterie de Cuisine and classic French techniques. “Seasonal Suppers” is available as a cooking class/dining experience for private groups, as a lunch or dinner. We begin the program with a demonstration style cooking class before guests enjoy a convivial dinner which highlights a favorite artisan food producer or winemaker from the region.

The third type is our “Market Tour and Cooking Class”, which takes place on market days in Beaune. This program is our most popular as it gives guests the opportunity to meet our favorite artisan food producers at the market and learn more about the region from a cook’s perspective.  We meet in the morning and tour the market, gathering ingredients for the day’s cooking class before we head to the atelier for the hands-on cooking class. Guests then sit down for “the long French lunch”.

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What motivates you to do what you do in the kitchen?

We are always thinking about, talking about, or dreaming about food. We love to entertain and feed people. Clients often ask what we do on our days off, our response is, “the very same thing, cooking and enjoying the long French lunch with family and friends”. Since the opening of our “brick and mortar shop” two years ago, we chuckle about how around noon time, people just start showing up in anticipation of what we are cooking that day.

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We’d like to live vicariously through you right now. What produce is popping up at the local French markets right now?

Spring has just arrived in Burgundy and we are beginning to see the first bunches of tender green and white asparagus, Gariguette strawberries, which we have dubbed as “angel kisses” for their sweet perfume, garden peas, and fava beans. A spring favorite at The Cook’s Atelier are Celine’s fresh eggs. She works with her father and they produce some of the best garden produce for the Beaune market. She has a few hens and we are fortunate enough that she saves the eggs for our cooking school. As we gather our produce in our big French market baskets, she’ll discreetly hand us a panier filled with eggs to use for the day’s class.

What will you make for lunch or supper with (that produce from the market) today?

Asparagus market salad with San Daniele, fava beans, and a fresh farm egg followed by one of our favorite French tarts, Gariguette strawberry with vanilla pastry cream and a buttery pâte sucrée dough.

Madeleine in the vineyards copy

We’ve never been to Beaune, France. Tell us why Beaune is worth a stop.

Burgundy is the heart and soul of France. It is so rich in history, traditions, and “terroir”. It is located about 2 1/2 hours from Paris via high-speed train. Beaune itself is a charming town that is small, yet very international as many people visit to explore one of the greatest wine regions in the world. We love it especially because it is still very real. We are so lucky to be able to find and work with real farmers who love what they do. We refer to our winemakers here as “farmers who just happen to grow grapes”. They are truly passionate. Winemaking is taken very seriously here, but unlike some winemaking regions in France, the winemakers wear coveralls rather than a suit and tie.

Beaune also has one of the most beautiful markets in France and we especially love it because the landscape is ideal for growing good food. Throughout our time in France, we have created a strong network of artisan food producers that we work with – farmers, organic gardeners, butchers, cheese makers, bakers, beekeepers – both to support small, local businesses as well as to give our clients the chance to see (and taste!) the best that Burgundy has to offer.

wine chez The Cook's Atelier copy

What do you eat when no one is looking? A guilty pleasure of sorts.

Due to our southwest origins that we just can’t kick, we often have a craving for something spicy. We make a mean hot sauce and pork chile verde. This was particularly fun to introduce to the locals!

Please share a little cooking tip to inspire a home cook.

One of the most important things that we like to pass on to our students is that you don’t need a lot of gadgets in the kitchen. We prefer to do things by hand as we feel this gives the cook a better understanding of the principles behind the technique. In our kitchen, we prefer to use things that are classic, timeless, and beautiful. No plastic measuring cups around here. We feel life really is in the details and you should surround yourself with beautiful and utilitarian items that can be passed down to children or grandchildren. For our atelier kitchen and our online shop, we specifically seek out authentic, hand-crafted cook’s tools that we use on a daily basis.

Mauviel Copper for The Cook's Atelier

What’s one of the best homemade food gifts you’ve ever received?

A bottle of homemade cassis from a friend’s garden.

What’s the one must-have item for every French or French-inspired kitchen?

Copper. Copper. Cooper. We love to cook with copper cookware. In fact, 99% of the time we will reach for one of our Mauviel copper pots. They are heavy, lined with stainless steel and conduct heat evenly. We think every cook should use copper cookware, even if you have just one piece. We have a large assortment of copper pots and pans that we have collected over the years at The Cook’s Atelier. It is an expensive item, but with a little loving care, it will last a lifetime.

What is the one item you covet for your kitchen?

A vintage Berkel slicer in white, please.

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Gariguette Strawberry Tart

Makes: 1 9-inch tart or (8 individual tartelettes)

Ingredients:

Gariguette Strawberry Tart
  • 1/2 recipe Pâte Sucrée (recipe follows)
  • All-purpose flour, for work surface
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Pastry Cream (recipe follows)
  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Pâte Sucrée
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

Gariguette Strawberry Tart
  1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/4-inch thick. With a pastry brush, sweep off excess flour, fit dough into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (or you can uses 8 tartelette pans for individual servings), pressing into the edges and using thumb to remove excess dough. Chill tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prick bottom of dough all over with a fork. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fill with dried beans and bake until the edges are just beginning to turn golden. Remove parchment paper and weights; continue baking until golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool tart shell completely on a wire rack.
  3. Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream and sugar in a bowl until soft peaks form. Working in batches, gently fold whipped cream into pastry cream; set aside.
  4. Spoon pastry cream mixture into cooled tart shell and spread evenly. Top with strawberries; dust with confectioners sugar. Tart is best served the day it is made.
Pâte Sucrée
  1. Whisk the cream and egg yolks together in a small bowl.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add the butter to the flour mixture. Using your hands, combine the butter with the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Be careful not to overwork the dough!
  3. Add the cream and yolk mixture and toss gently with a fork to incorporate. Feel free to use your hands to continue to combine the ingredients. But again, be sure to not overwork the dough. You can tell when the dough is ready by taking a small handful and squeezing it together. It if holds together, the dough is complete. If it does not, feel free to add more cream to reach the right consistency.
  4. When the dough is ready, divide the dough in two and place it on a sheet of plastic wrap. Gather the plastic wrap around the dough, forming a pouch, twist and push down to form a flat disk. Chill the dough for at least an hour or, ideally, overnight.
Pastry Cream
  1. Place milk, vanilla bean, and 4 tablespoons sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat; cook until almost boiling.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks with remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar until thickened. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and flour and continue beating until well combined.
  3. Remove vanilla bean from milk. While whisking constantly, slowly pour heated-milk mixture into egg-yolk mixture. Pour mixture through a fine sieve back into saucepan, and cook, whisking constantly, over medium-high heat, until it thickens, about 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in butter until melted. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing directly on the surface of the pastry cream; refrigerate until completely cooled.
Photos courtesy of The Cook's Atelier

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