The Hospitable Globetrotting Gourmets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf the adage “no rest for the wicked” rings true, then La Varenne alumnus Robert Carmack must be very wicked indeed. Earlier this year, after nearly three decades living in Australia, Robert and his partner Morrison Polkinghorne packed their bags and moved to Cambodia. They just published The Burma Cookbook in March (which I wrote the foreword to!), and in the midst of their publicity tour in the U.S. and Australia they have also taken on the daunting task of opening a Bed and Breakfast.

For the last four months Robert has been renovating a three-story premise in the heart of colonial Battambang whose doors will open in November. The mission statement for the Bed and Breakfast is most inspiring: They will host styling workshops (Morrison is a textile authority and designer/photographer for The Burma Cookbook), as well as invite other international experts to come and teach the locals for free.

Robert and Morrison chose colonial Battambang for the location of their Bed and Breakfast specifically for its architectural charm and nascent art scene. And it’s not just the French colonials who can take credit for the city’s numerous mansions and waterfront shop houses; Thailand lorded over there until 1904 and the country’s contemporary architectural influence was heavily adapted from Italy. The end result is a city that feels like you’ve entered a time warp and is up for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The dynamic duo also hosted a culinary group tour of Burma in June and July and they are already planning next year’s itinerary. If you want to be the first to know the finalized dates of the tour and keep current on what these two wickedly busy bees are up to, visit their fantastic blog The Globetrotting Gourmet.

A big congratulations and best of luck to Robert and Morrison as they take the plunge into the hospitality business! – Anne


Robert, Morrison and Anne

Socca, traditional to Provence, are thin pancakes based on chickpea flour and mixed only with water and a spoonful of olive oil. Possible flavorings include an aromatic spice such as cumin or a chopped herb such as thyme or rosemary. Socca have become favorite cocktail snacks, at their best piping hot, though they are just

Recipe »

Cynthia Nims Goes Fully Digital

Cynthia Nims

While already an accomplished cookbook author, La Varenne graduate Cynthia Nims is now serious about eBooks. She recently published seven, yes seven, different eCookbooks for Kindle. One series features three iconic Pacific Northwest foods: Salmon, Crab and Wild Mushrooms. Each book celebrates the featured ingredient, provides resources for local sourcing and includes ten different recipes as well as cooking tips. Other titles in her eBook series include Breakfast, Appetizers, Main Courses and Soups, Salads & Sandwiches. These “course” eBooks cover about twenty five recipes each.

Cynthia has another digital side, this one multi-media style: her courses on Craftsy. If you don’t yet know Craftsy, it’s a rapidly growing website that provides educational videos and courses for – you guessed it – all things to do with crafts. They started squarely in the knitting and sewing realm and have now expanded into gardening and cooking. One of Cynthia’s courses entitled “French Home Cooking: The Essential Techniques” demystifies the key French cooking techniques and classic recipes that channel the flavors of France. So far, more than 1,000 students have enrolled in her course. It delivers the goods!

In her other Craftsy class, “Homemade Salty Snacks,” Cynthia guides us through more than a dozen salty snacks. Her popular Mustard Soft Pretzel recipe was featured in a piece for Woman’s Day magazine. Click on the recipe title for step-by-step photos on how to make the treat, and there you’ll also find a special offer on Cynthia’s Salty Snacks class along with access to six other short cooking classes for free. Cooking school at the click of a button!

If Cynthia’s work strikes your fancy, you should check out her charming and educational blog, Mon Appétit. It features a wealth of interesting posts, recipes and stories. – Anne

Aunt Louie’s Cheese Balls

Cheese Balls

This is my Aunt Louie’s recipe for Cheese Balls. She was a real grande dame – she knew everyone in the village and always organized the village fête. When she drove up the street, she would wave with a regal bow. Auntie Louie was famous for her luck in a raffle (she once won a

Recipe »

11-22-14 Bruce Kalman Joins La Varenne for Class

UnionPortraitOn November 22nd, Bruce Kalman of Union Restaurant will bring his fresh Italian style to La Varenne for a festive afternoon of delicious holiday cooking and eating!

Since opening in March of 2014, Union has been coined one of Zagat’s Hottest New Restaurants around LA, it’s been one of Los Angeles Magazine’s “Buzziest Restaurants”, and has already received rave reviews from LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell and Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times. We are thrilled to have this Los Angeles up-and-comer on the roster at La Varenne. Join Bruce and Anne for this intimate class of 15 just in time for the holidays!

To sign up call 310.396.7464 or email

Read More »

Anne Willan to Publish Secrets of the La Varenne Kitchen

SECRETSI am delighted to announce that my latest project, Secrets of the La Varenne Kitchenwill be released in March 2015. Secrets is the never before published handbook for students who attended École de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris. It contains 50 essential recipes that no cook should be without, and has been a staple in my kitchen for decades. It is with many thanks to my friends at Spring House Press for their hard work and creativity in bringing this book to life. Stay tuned for more updates! Cheers, Anne

A Feast for the Eyes

FEAST_WEBThis two-day event will feature an array of talks and panels examining West Coast culinary history. Anne will be kicking it off with a keynote address focused on The Origins of the Modern Cookbook. Click here to sign up.

Friday, October 24th and Saturday, October 25th, 2014
The Book Club of California
312 Sutter Street, San Francisco


Read More »

Martha Holmberg, Plum Guru

martha head shotMartha Holmberg has authored a gem of a book all about plums. Martha is a former La Varenne student, trainee and long-time friend, and she’s released this 9th volume in a series called Short Stack Editions this week. I’ve already ordered a copy of Plums! The book takes an in-depth look at the subject, highlighting their sweet-tart intensity in savory recipes as well as sweet, all playing on the gorgeous color of plums. Think of a homemade plum jam!

If you aren’t familiar with Short Stack, it’s an innovative publishing house that has set out to rekindle the nostalgia and lasting value of old fashioned food pamphlets by creating hand bound, single subject books. There seems to be a new trend in small books as I am seeing more and more come across my desk. The American Academy in Rome has tiny books on subjects like Biscotti or Zuppe. The University of North Carolina Press has a series of books called Savor the South on ideas like Biscuits, Pecans and Buttermilk. Short Stack Editions is the only publisher to zero in on the La Varenne alumni network! Virginia Willis authored a book on Grits and Jessica Battilana wrote the most recent one on Corn.

Martha seems to be doing more than just studying the plum. She’s working on her third video for online tutorial site Craftsy and putting a co-authored Cocktail Book to bed. Martha is also working on a book about Vegetables to be released in 2016. And if that isn’t enough, she is also serving as Director, Communications and Content for IACP. (It’s a great organization for food professionals, worth checking out their upcoming events.)

People are always commenting on how busy I am, but it is not just me. The entire La Varenne family seems to be going non-stop. From authors and media specialists to catering coordinators and hard core restaurant chefs, I’m constantly amazed and impressed by all that alumni accomplish. Congrats to Martha on the latest! Anne

The Yellow Table Gets Kickstarted

annaLa Varenne Alum, Anna Watson Carl is publishing her very first cookbook in a new and exciting way, with a Kickstarter funding campaign. Anna has decided to take her blog, The Yellow Table, and turn it into a book called The Yellow Table Cookbook: Celebrating the Art of Everyday Abundance. With cookbook deals hard to come by in this changing landscape, Anna is self-publishing, self-promoting, cooking, eating and chronicling the whole thing on her blog. I was simply amazed when I saw the quantity and quality of the content she is creating. I am so impressed with her creativity and innovation as she approaches this book. If you are interested in learning more or helping her reach her goal, click here!

N.B. This is the first in a series of posts that will feature the goings on of former La Varenne trainees and students. I must say I’m amazed by the many exciting career paths of La Varenne alumni. We’ll be sharing a selection of exciting projects from among the wider La Varenne family, which we think are intriguing and in an effort to highlight the endless possibilities one has in the ever-changing food world.

A Modernist Cuisine Dinner

Chefs Plating

I ‘m just back from an amazing experience in Seattle — a 35 course dinner with leader in culinary innovation Nathan Myrhvold. When he’s not working on the next round of his definitive and award winning Modernist series, he is pursuing space intelligence or how to zap malarial mosquitoes with a laser beam. This Microsoft founder and La Varenne Alumn truly is a renaissance man!

In his Seattle based Modernist laboratory, I sat with 24 other female cooking professionals and enjoyed a Dry Cocktail, all water extracted to leave a shimmering, zesty tablespoon of moonshine with a whiff of basil and olive oil. Plate after plate came out, and nothing was quite what it seemed. Chicharron for example had nothing to do with pork but was a strip of bread dough microwaved at full blast for two minutes so it puffs, almost explodes, and dries to a fluffy crust. Green peas were whizzed in a centrifuge and put back into tiny pea pods — good, but a lot of work and not better than a fresh pea in my opinion.  It was a fascinating meal that had us all talking and thinking about what was on our plates. I’ve already tried to zap a bit of bread dough in the microwave with no luck!

Cheers, Anne

Next Page »