Our story is about family and our unwavering vision to create a small business around what we cherish most - good food, family, and France.
The Cook’s Atelier was founded in 2008 by the mother-daughter duo, Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini. Their first cookbook is scheduled to release in spring 2018.
People often ask us how two American women – a mother and daughter, nonetheless – ended up running a French cooking school in Beaune, France. It’s a long story, but certainly one we love telling, as it reminds us that with enough grit and determination, anything is possible...
The Cook’s Atelier was an idea years in the making – one that involved lots of brainstorming and countless glasses of wine. We started with no formal business plan, just a strong gut instinct to create a place that we would love, and hoped that others would, too. As American expats determined to make Burgundy our full-time home, we wanted to create a convivial gathering place where we could share our love of food and wine with other home cooks from around the world. We envisioned taking guests to the market to purchase local produce, artisanal cheeses, meats, and charcuterie, and freshly baked bread from our favourite artisan food producers. We dreamed of conducting hands-on cooking classes, teaching classic French techniques in an approachable way, and continuing the day with a leisurely French lunch around our table. In the evenings, we imagined hosting candlelit dinner parties with new and old friends.
After years of research, professional work experience, and study – both in food and wine, independently and together – we found a way to take the things we love about the French lifestyle and to combine it all into a small family business and brand. Our combined professional culinary and viticulture/oenology backgrounds give us a comprehensive knowledge of the foods and wines of France. Being incredibly detail-oriented, with a strong appreciation for aesthetics (and with remarkably similar tastes), becoming business partners was a natural transition on our journey.
The Cook's Atelier has been a true labor of love and has evolved over the years, taking on its own momentum. We knew this journey would have its ups and downs, but we set our sights high and jumped feet first into founding The Cook's Atelier, with the intention of creating a special place that supports the connection between the farmer and the cook, and where people from all over the world could come together, learn to cook, and have a good time.
Ultimately, our story is about family and our unwavering vision to create a small business around what we cherish most - good food, family, and France. Today, we are honored to welcome guests to our Atelier to experience the joys of French cooking and eating at its best!
In the height of the season, you'll find us busy in the kitchen with hands-on cooking workshops, dinner parties, market tours and field trips to artisan food producers. We'll be busy tending our garden (using much of the produce we grow in our Atelier kitchen), making homemade confiture, or driving the tiny vineyard roads in our vintage 2CV (named Madeleine!), headed to flea markets and brocantes in search of something special for our culinary boutique and online shop. Later in the year, when things slow down, we are hard at work on recipe testing and food photography projects. There is always something simmering on the back of the stove while we are busy planning next year's season.
Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini
Co-founders and Cooks
Passionate about nourishing others and gathering them around the table, Marjorie is a self-taught cook and true entrepreneur in spirit. Inspired by classic French techniques and the writings of culinary greats such as Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, Elizabeth David, Madeleine Kamman, and Alice Waters, she apprenticed and worked in French restaurants for years, fine tuning her skills in classical French cuisine, and eventually became a pastry chef. She later opened Ruby Beet, an award-winning farm-to-table restaurant and cooking school in historic downtown Phoenix. After running the restaurant for several years, she came to France to study under noted teacher and cookbook author, Anne Willan, at La Varenne in Burgundy, where she ultimately found the inspiration to make France home.
Kendall’s love of France began at an early age. A true Francophile at heart, she studied French and Art History at university, and then moved to Paris to work at Christie's Auction House. Over the years, she gained an interest in wine, and in her off hours, she pursued this interest by studying at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and working at Legrand Filles et Fils, a well-known wine bar and wine shop in the 2nd arrondissement. She eventually settled in Beaune to pursue wine studies further by attending the Centre de Formation Professionnelle et de Promotion Agricole and focusing on viticulture. Additionally, she assisted a biodynamic winemaker in Volnay in the vines and cuverie and worked for Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in their Beaune office before joining forces with her mom to create The Cook’s Atelier.
The ‘Frenchman’ and Shopkeeper
Kendall’s husband, Laurent, joined The Cook’s Atelier in 2013. When The Cook's Atelier decided to expand their concept and add a culinary boutique and wine shop, it was clear that Laurent was the perfect person to add to the growing business. Laurent has been an integral part of the Atelier family and business from the beginning, and has been especially instrumental in helping navigate the miles and miles of red tape involved in setting up a business in France. He helped find the current brick and mortar Atelier, as well as the original Beaunois flat where the very first cooking classes began years ago. His vital role – both as shopkeeper and the friendly face who greets every person who comes into the shop – completes the family team.
Our cooking philosophy is simple: It’s all about quality seasonal ingredients, approachable classic French techniques, and developing intuition in the kitchen.
Our goal at the The Cook’s Atelier is to help guests become more confident cooks. During our cooking classes and workshops, we emphasize the importance of quality ingredients and seasonality, and provide a deeper understanding of the classic French techniques necessary to building a solid culinary foundation. We welcome a wide variety of cooking levels, from total novices to restaurant chefs, in our Atelier kitchen. Our cooking philosophy is simple: it’s all about quality seasonal ingredients, approachable classic French techniques, and developing intuition in the kitchen.
As the world is getting more and more homogenized, we feel traditions such as charcuterie, cheese-making, and artisanal baking should be protected. We do our best to help support these crafts by shopping locally, and sharing these traditions with our clients as well. The local market of Beaune, held every Wednesday and Saturday year-round, is one of the best in the region, and in France. Rain or shine, the square is filled with white tents and tables overflowing with the season’s bounty. Over the years, we’ve forged close relationships with the people - gardeners, farmers, cheese mongers, butchers, bakers, bee keepers - who grow and produce the food we cook. We enjoy teaching guests what to look for when buying artisanal products, and encourage them to support small, local food producers wherever they live.
Having a strong grasp of classic French cooking techniques and basic core principles – from how to hold a knife properly, to mastering classic sauces and stocks, to understanding how to properly sear, sauté, roast, braise, season and so on – is the key to becoming a better cook. We always teach our students how to first make things by hand so they really get a feel for the process. As you practice these techniques and core principles, you will naturally begin to develop your own style of cooking.
As you become a better cook, part of the journey is to let go of just simply following a recipe. We feel it’s important for a good cook to begin with certain fundamental classic techniques and methods and then, with some practice, start to hone in on their own intuition in the kitchen to make a recipe ultimately into their own.
We believe above all that cooking should be an enjoyable process and is one of the very best ways to bring people together.