The Top 10 Questions I Get Asked

One of the consequences of having a long career as a cookbook writer is I do a lot of interviews, especially when promoting the latest book. Each interview certainly takes its own course but I’ve realized I frequently get asked many of the same questions. I thought it would be fun to compile the Top 10 most asked and also share my answers with you.

1. What cooking technique was hardest for you to learn?
Answer: How to peel an apple. Of course, since childhood, I’ve been able to pare off bits and pieces from an apple with a peeler, but the rapid, professional way to peel an apple using a small, razor-sharp vegetable knife and holding the whole apple with the fingertips of your other hand is something else. You should be able to spin the apple, so the peel is detached in a single, even ribbon. Throw the ribbon over your shoulder and, folklore has it, the ribbon tells you the initial of your next lover.

2. What cookbooks were more formative for you – and which new ones have caught your eye?
Answer: Somehow, the most influential cookbooks are always referred to by first names – Julia (Child), Jim (Beard), or Larousse (Gastronomique). I was brought up in England, so Mrs. B (Beeton) was important. When I went to France, Escoffier (Le Guide Culinaire) took center stage, and when I started writing my own recipes, Elizabeth David became a model of clarity combined with background information that illuminated the context of a recipe. Her simplicity of phrase remains a model. As for recent cookbooks, Heston Blumenthal’s Historic Heston takes a brilliant journey into my favorite subject, old cookbooks. And, every time I open covers of the massive Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold (who was a student at La Varenne), I am enthralled.

3. What’s the most important cooking advice you’ve ever received?
Answer: Never give up! Something that has gone wrong can almost always be saved. Stand back, take a deep breath, and all eventually will be well.

4. How has the way you cook changed since you started your career?
Answer: I’ve always been a hands-on cook, no rubber gloves for me! I’ve had to be wrenched into using machines, but now I’m inseparable from my hand-held electric blender, mixer and food processor. I’ve also grown to love my coffee-grinder, which is so handy for grinding fresh spices for medieval recipes. But it’s best to use a separate grinder for coffee and spices so the aromas don’t mix unintentionally. The marble mortar I once used for crushing now has succulents growing it.

5. What inspired you to turn La Varenne Pratique into an ebook?
Answer: La Varenne Pratique was first published in 1989 and it is just as relevant today. Information on how to choose a good steak, or the quickest way to chop an onion has not changed. I’ve long wanted the book to reach a wider audience, and to be available at a modest cost, and this gave us that opportunity.

6. What do you like to cook for yourself now?
Answer: Cooking in California is a treat. The supply of locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables lasts all year round. So, we have a lot of salads, greens and seasonal things like: asparagus, green beans, peaches, artichokes and amazing berries. We enjoy fish, whole chickens, split and then flavored with chopped herbs and olive oil under the skins and toasted in a heavy skillet with a foil-wrapped brick on top; the skin comes out wonderfully crisp. I’ve just been blanching some sweetbreads in white wine and water and we’ll flour and fry them in butter for a weekend indulgence. And, we are never, ever, without a good supply of cheese: cow, goat, sheep, hard, soft, fresh or aged – we love them all!

7. How do today’s La Varenne students differ from those of 20 years ago?
Answer:Cooking students today are far more knowledgeable than when I started teaching fifty years ago. They eat out, travel and are much more adventurous than in the old days. They think of good cooking not just as a trade, but as an accomplishment; even at the highest levels – an art. With the plethora of new, challenging ingredients, and an informed audience eager to try new dishes, we cooks are enjoying a golden age.

8. What is your favorite food?
Answer: Cheese – cow cheese, goat or sheep’s cheese. The huge variety of cheeses is one of the greatest pleasures of France.

9. Is there any food you don’t like?
Answer: I hate beets. I was fed a lot of them as a child and I’ve hated them ever since. A second dislike is chili pepper. For me, hot pepper masks the nuances of flavor.

10. What is your go-to snack while you’re traveling and doing book events?
Anne’s Answer: Peanuts, roasted and salted, of course. No sense skipping making them taste their very best.

Make Mother’s Day Memorable with Spinach Soufflé

Last Minute Cheese SouffleThis Mother’s Day I will be at BARDOT Brasserie inside the Aria Hotel in Las Vegas signing books and helping celebrate mothers and the special role they’ve played in our lives. Whether or not you can join me in Vegas, I wanted to share a recipe that can make your Mother’s Day meal very special; it all starts with a soufflé.

A soufflé is the perfect dish to make in lieu of Eggs Benedict – the cheese and egg mixture brings together a savory flavor and the appearance is elegant in itself, and with this recipe it’s not really as hard as you might think.  (more…)

Book Signing at Bardot – Mother’s Day weekend

Anne is headed to Las Vegas for Mother’s Day! Join her at BARDOT for a book signing and an unforgettable weekend dinner and brunch experience that will include an accordion player and photographer. The menu features recipes like Chef Chambrette’s Soufflée au Fromage and Babas au Rhum which are from some of Anne’s latest cookbooks like Country Cooking of France and her memoir, One Soufflé At A Time.

Dinner & Book Signing
Saturday, May 7 | 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Mother’s Day Brunch & Book Signing
Sunday, May 8 | 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Top 10 Cookbooks of all time

Spring is without a doubt one of my favorite times of year. The weather takes a turn for the better, flowers begin to bloom, markets overflow with fresh produce and both the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) and the James Beard House announce the annual awards to new cook books within the culinary world.

Many of the books I’ve collected in my library have been either IACP or James Beard award recipients. While I always look forward to this season for the new book arrivals, I can’t help but wander back to the classics which have shaped all our lives in the kitchen.  (more…)

The Forgotten Sauce

Gratin of Seasonal Greens

Whether you call it by its classy French name Béchamel, from the 18th century French Marquis of the same name, know it as “cream gravy” as they do in Texas and much of the South, or simply call it White Sauce as the English like me do, I’m struck by how it’s become the forgotten sauce.

Recipe »

Anne Willan Headshot

Feasting in the 17th Century

Over the course of the last 6 months, I have been involved with the Getty Research Institute quite extensively. My husband Mark and my collection of antiquarian books have been on display in the Edible Monument Exhibit and will be going on tour in the spring. As you may have seen, I have contributed to

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Anne on the Getty Blog

Anne has written a piece for the The Getty Iris blog, read her take on How Raw Sugar Transformed the European Banquet.

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Raspberry Valentine

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For the perfect pink for Valentine’s Day, I’ve layered a mixture of fresh raspberries, whipped cream and grated chocolate with a few flaked almonds for texture. to display the layers, you can use stemmed wine glasses or even clear glass tumblers instead of the traditional soda glasses I suggest here. Long-stemmed spoons are a good

Recipe »

Book Signing at Bardot – Mother’s Day weekend

Anne is headed to Las Vegas for Mother’s Day! Join her at BARDOT for a book signing and an unforgettable weekend dinner and brunch experience that will include an accordion player and photographer. The menu features recipes like Chef Chambrette’s Soufflée au Fromage and Babas au Rhum which are from some of Anne’s latest cookbooks like Country Cooking of France and her memoir, One Soufflé At A Time.

Dinner & Book Signing
Saturday, May 7 | 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Mother’s Day Brunch & Book Signing
Sunday, May 8 | 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

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SECRETS wins at Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

9781940611150_FCWe’re honored to announce that SECRETS from the La Varenne kitchen: 50 essential recipes every cook needs to know, has won Best Cooking School Book in the USA at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. As a winner of this category, this book is qualified for the Gourmand Best In World Competition. The winner will be announced on Saturday, May 28th 2016.  Click here to read more about the Gourmand Cookbook Awards.

 

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