Marjorie Taylor and Kendall Smith Franchini have more in common than just an enviable set of genes — the gorgeous mother/daughter pair also share a passion for food, wine, and all things French. That’s why together, they decided to take on expat status and co-found their own business in the Burgundy region of France.
The Cook’s Atelier is a renowned cooking school, but also a dream place of sorts where guests from all over the world can experience French food and cooking in an idyllic setting.
Marjorie and Kendall host workshops, wine tastings, bespoke gatherings and even offer lodging above their shop (which is curated to patinaed perfection by Kendall’s husband, Laurent Franchini.)
Scroll down to see why we’re dying to visit The Cook’s Atelier in person. And if a trip to Burgundy isn’t in your plans, worry not, because Marjorie and Kendall’s first cookbook The Cook’s Atelier: Recipes, Techniques, and Stories from Our French Cooking School is absolutely incredible – we will take what we can get until we’re able to make the real trip in person ourselves. Bon appétit!
Tell us a little about The Cook’s Atelier. Where are you located in France and what services do you offer?
We’re a French cooking school located in Beaune (Burgundy). 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’re 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.
What do you love about being a mother-daughter business team?
We love the fact that we have the opportunity to create a business around what matters most. For us, that’s family. 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. Both of us being very detailed oriented with a strong appreciation for aesthetics and remarkably similar taste, it was a natural transition to being business partners.
Kendall, how does your mom inspire you when it comes to entertaining?
Kendall: For me, growing up, my mom was a big believer of using the things that you love everyday rather than saving them for special occasions. I continue this traditional in my home.
And Marjorie, what special talents does your daughter bring to the table?
Marjorie: Kendall has a beautiful sense for creating a lovely experience focusing on the little details. Her motto is always ‘less is more’ and plenty of fresh flowers and candlelight.
How does your American background influence the way you entertain in France?
We come from simple beginnings, but we’ve always enjoyed bringing people to the table. As Americans living in France, we continue with this spirit and always focus on creating a warm and convivial experience for our guests.
What do you love about France?
Pretty much everything except the paperwork.
What’s your favorite French entertaining tradition?
A Champagne apéritif.
Where did you both learn to cook?
Marjorie: We don’t come from a long line of great cooks. My interest in cooking began in my early twenties when Kendall was a little girl. I taught myself to cook using the classics (i.e., Julia Child, MFK Fisher, Elizabeth David etc.) Eager to learn more, I began apprenticing at a series of French inspired restaurants to hone my skills. Being an entrepreneurial spirit, and with some experience under my belt in working in professional kitchens, I opened a neighborhood restaurant and cooking school in 1999. During this time, Kendall was at university out of state and she spent a lot of time studying abroad in France. After several years, we knew France was going to be in our future. I had the opportunity to work with Anne Willan at La Varenne in 2006 while Kendall was pursuing her viticulture and oenology studies in Burgundy. We decided to combine our passions for food and wine and join forces to create The Cook’s Atelier in 2008.
Your go-to centerpiece solution:
Fresh flowers and plenty of candlelight.
The one entertaining rule you never break:
We always give ourselves enough time to plan the event so we won’t be rushed at the end.
Describe The Cook’s Atelier entertaining style in 5 words or fewer:
Simple, convivial, seasonal, welcoming and inspiring.
Your signature dish for parties:
We always enjoy beginning the long French lunch or dinner with an apéritif and gougères, a classic Burgundian speciality.
Dream dinner guest:
The perfect dinner party playlist includes:
Van Morrison, Edith Piaf, a little Charles Trenet, and Billie Holiday.
Always in your fridge:
The taste you’re always craving:
A great glass of Burgundy Pinot Noir.
The secret to a great dinner party:
The guest list.
Fill in the blank: “It’s not a party without ____________.”
The people you love.