10-7-15 Anne Willan to VNA Meals on Wheels Luncheon

VNA Meals on Wheels LogoCMYK_printOn October 7th, Anne Willan will be joining VNA Texas for their sixth annual luncheon benefiting the Meals on Wheels organization. This intimate gathering will feature special recipes and stories from Secrets from the La Varenne Kitchen. We are honored to take part in this wonderful event that has helped to provide more than 146,500 home-delivered meals to elderly neighbors in Dallas. For ticketing and event details, click here.

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5 Questions with Virginia Willis

unnamed-1La Varenne alum and Southern cooking expert Virginia Willis sat down with us for 5 questions. In honor of her new book, Lighten Up Y’all, we got the dish on everything from her love of okra to an ‘aha moment’ at La Varenne in Burgundy. Here’s what she had to say:

1. When you’re not cooking Southern comfort food or traditional French cuisine, what regional cooking do you like to prepare?

While I consider myself an expert in Southern cooking and have a great deal of French training, I actually like to cook many different kinds of cuisines. Lately, I have been particularly interested in middle Eastern cooking. I am excited to taste and experiment with the different herbs and spices.

2. What classic Southern ingredient or dish do you think is underappreciated?

Okra! Folks really have a love or hate relationship with okra.

3. Do you have a fond memory (perhaps something you learned, cooked or ate) that sticks out from your time at La Varenne?

There are so many memories from cooking and learning at LV! There was an opportunity to learn around every corner. Undoubtedly, working with the fresh ingredients from the potager was inspiring and the exposure to so many different chefs and techniques was inspiring and educational. Guerilla jam making on the fly while making dinner for 20 at the same time sticks out as a pretty intense memory for a completely different reason….One of the most important to me in my mind was a personal one. Anne and I were butting heads over something and I was incredibly frustrated. I went upstairs to my room, cursing underneath my breath, and slammed open the window and said to myself, “what am I doing here?!”. Well, I looked out the window and all I could see on the hillside in the distance were tall, bright sunflowers waving in the summer breeze, their faces turned towards the sun. I was literally stunned with the beauty to the point it forced me off my feet and onto an adjacent bench. There was my answer, that’s why I was there. I’ll never forget that moment.

4. How did your experience working with Anne Willan influence your career?

Anne Willan is one of the hardest working people I have ever met in my life. She’s always doing, always working, always writing, always striving to do more. She’s an incredible inspiration to me. I have received awards and accolades in my life and throughout my career, but having the respect of Anne Willan and hearing her say, “Well done” is one of my highest honors. 

5. What advice do you have for young cooks hoping to find their footing in the world of food?

Raise your hand. Volunteer. Do more. Learn. Go. Pay attention. One thing that Anne said to me many years ago was, “Learn the scales before you play the music. Cooking is about creativity, but itʼs important to acquire discipline first.” Good sage, advice.

Order The Cookbook Tree of Life

treeoflifeThe Cookbook Tree of Life will be celebrated this weekend at The Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. This gorgeously illustrated letterpress broadside tracks the development of cookbooks through four centuries and half a dozen languages.  It features original artwork by Keith Cranmer and was crafted by master printer Norman Clayton. Printed in seven colors on 100% cotton paper, this 16 x 20 inch poster is part of a limited edition print run of only 200 signed and numbered copies. Order yours now; it’s destined to be a cherished collectible!

Size: 16”x 20”
Price: $65.00

To order, email nicole@lavarenne.com or call 310-889-8960.

Remembering an Old Friend: The Olio Cookery Book

Zester Daily “As soon as I had learned to read, in the down moments of the kitchen while a cake baked, I would huddle in a corner to avoid Emily’s feet and pick up the Olio. The limp, brownish cover enclosed surprising information among its 1,400 recipes.” (Anne Willan in Zester Daily)

Many thanks to Zester Daily for publishing my story on Olio. It was a pleasure to revisit the old book after so many years on the shelf. Enjoy!

Cynthia Nims Talks SECRETS

IMG_4538B[1]“It’s the only book that resides full-time in my kitchen, tucked between the flour and coffee bins on the counter for easy access…If you’ve got a hankering for homemade ice cream or need some guidelines for fish stock, you’ll find it here. Some of the offerings are perfect as-is recipes.” (Cynthia Nims in Mon Appetit)

La Varenne alumna, Cynthia Nims, has published a review of SECRETS on her website. I am in awe of the tattered and well-loved copies that have been popping up through our alumni network. It is a thrill to be able to now share this most-useful book with the world. Cheers, Anne

Sugar and Sweets has arrived!

OCSS coverThOCSS cover (2)e Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets is finally here! It was an absolute pleasure to contribute a chapter on French desserts, but an even greater pleasure to have the complete book in our office. This comprehensive encyclopedia contains detailed descriptions on everything from laddu to layer cake, this is a must-have title for any kitchen.

“France became one of the first countries to explore the possibilities of sugar when cheap supplies came flooding in from the Caribbean and South America at the start of the seventeenth century… France is the home of petits fours, a term that first appeared in Patissier francois in 1653 and referred to the little ovens that had been invented, designed for baking miniature versions of almond cakes, puff pastries, and small cookies. These dry little cakes are often sold in bulk for nibbling at home, the nearest thing to cookies for the American cookie jar.” (Anne Willan, The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets)

Six Questions with Caroline Wright


In honor of the launch of her new website, we sat down with La Varenne alumna Caroline Wright to ask her a few questions. Caroline gave us the dish on her career in food, her newest book and what it’s like to work with a toddler in the mix!

1. What inspired you to pursue a career in food? Was there a meal, a place, a person that made you realize that cooking was more than a hobby for you?

I always enjoyed cooking as a hobby throughout my childhood — looking up recipes, learning about how dishes were made and serving them to my family as a special occasion. However, when I went to college in Paris as a literature student, I lived just near my university on a market street called Rue Cler. I had never known fresh produce like that, or such a consummate culture of good eating as I then saw in Paris. Like me, everyone there was spending their days wondering what to cook or eat next but with skill and access to ingredients that I hadn’t yet seen before. (more…)

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