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.
2. Tell us about your creative process. When you’re going to prepare a meal or write a recipe, what do you to get in the right mindset?
My background has been in food editorial, which is a world that thinks about not only the meal itself, but also everything else that surrounds it, including the cook. When I write a recipe, I like to think of ways to serve the cook through clear instruction or technique, as well as how people I love would use the recipe in their lives.
3. Give us a feel for what it’s like to be in the kitchen when you’re cooking. (Is there music? Are you drinking coffee, tea, wine…? Do you prefer to cook alone or does everyone in the vicinity get a little messy?)
Cooking, to me, is all about play, and I have fun with my ideas. In the past few years, my son, now a toddler, has joined me perched on a nearby counter and watched me cook or helped to stir something in a pan. Whether it’s my son or a friend stopping by, I love company in the kitchen as I cook.
4. Your next cookbook is scheduled to come out a year from now. Can you give us a little hint about what’s inside?
It’s a baking book! In fact, it’s all about cakes. My editor from Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals and I having been working hard to give bakers a confident and innovative way to approach cake-baking. It throws a lot of typical baking fears out the window and starts from a place of both ease and creativity, which I feel like is lost for so many nervous bakers. It’s a fun book, and I can’t wait for you to have your hands on it!
5. What would you say is your signature dish? What is your favorite dish to prepare?
I love cooking and baking equally, for different reasons. One of my favorite things to make is a tarte tatin, which Anne first taught me. It is all I want to eat when the weather turns chilly and I am in a place with orchard-picked apples. On the savory side, I love making fresh pasta (also something Anne taught me).
If I could be as bold to pick a “signature” recipe of ones I’ve written, I would say that the steak with radishes recipe from my first cookbook is pretty indicative of my style: fresh radishes, sautéed, while a steak roasts in the oven, served with a simple herb sauce. It’s fast and unexpected, but entirely something you will crave forever once you’ve tried.