Not only a delicious memoir but a love letter to food, France and family One Souffle At A Time is a delight. Celebrated food authority Anne Willan not only shares her life to date but 50 of her favorite recipes and the stories of such culinary greats as Julia Child, James Beard, Simone Beck, Craig Claiborne, all who forever altered the way we look at food.
Growing up in Yorkshire Willan describes herself as a “sturdy” girl who enjoyed good home cooking as her mother was an excellent cook, but at the time she showed no aptitude for preparing food herself. Her road to becoming the proprietor of a famed cooking school in Paris was a circuitous but fascinating one. Along the way she met and married Mark Cherniavsky, worked at Gourmet magazine and as food editor of the Washington Star.
As a young girl she attended boarding school where she seems to have subsisted largely on potatoes, food was not considered important and those who appeared to eat too much were thought greedy. A healthy appetite was certainly not de rigueur. Then at the age of 14 her parents took her to Paris where for the first time she tasted French cuisine.
For her graduation gift Willan was gifted with a summer course at a cookery and finishing school. She later studied economics at Cambridge graduating with a third-class degree (in other words, not near the top of her class.) Shortly thereafter she enrolled at the Cordon Bleu in London where after three months she was asked to stay and teach. She had found her life’s work.
When in Paris she attended the original Cordon Bleu where she encountered a grumpy chef who refused to answer questions and nothing seemed to be written down. So, when she and her husband returned to Paris for the second time she dreamed of opening her own cooking school where there would be a warm, friendly atmosphere and the students would receive written recipes - La Varenne was born.
This year Willan was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Cookbook Hall of Fame for “body of work.” Her life’s journey to date has been fulfilling, and in “One Souffle At A Time” Willan relates it with warmth and wit.
- Gail Cooke