my stylish and – almost – french girlfriend – Marjorie

by Sharon Santoni
I am fortunate to meet and to know many talented, creative  and determined women.   Today I am happy to bring you the second in my series about women who have come to France from far away and created a new life for themselves.
They don’t always speak French before coming, they rarely  know which way their lives will turn, but they all come here with a passion and a will to fit in and thrive.
Today you will learn about Marjorie, who arrived from America and made herself a new life and a new living in the wine producing region of Burgundy.
My stylish and – really almost – French girlfriends!

Hi Marjorie, thank you for letting MFCH come visit with you! We’d love to know more about how you came to live in France, and about the life you have created for yourself here.  What brought you to France, and when?

I moved to France in September of 2008. My daughter, Kendall,  is the real Francophile. She has been living in France for 11 years. I had the opportunity in 2006 to work with Anne Willan at her château in Burgundy and I fell in love with the region. I knew that if I was ever going to make the jump across the pond for good, that was the time.
 The light-bulb went off that my daughter was never going to return to the states and that my future grandchildren would be French. Even though she had not yet found her very own Frenchman,  her heart and soul were French.
 I went back to the states, sold everything and moved to Burgundy. Being very close as  mother/daughter, we decided to work together and combined our passions to create The Cook’s Atelier.
Incidentally, my hunch paid off. She did find her very own Frenchman and I have one grandson, Luc who will be two in June and another little girl, Manon Clair who has just arrived in April.
Did you already speak French before moving here?
No. I always like to say, “I speak food”. My personality is very open and I love to talk.  I find that people are happy to see I am trying…. we work things out. Let’s just say, it’s a work in progress.

Where did you learn to cook?

I originally trained as pastry chef in the States.  I  had my own restaurant, and when I wanted to come to France and learn some more, I was thrilled to have the chance to work with Anne Willan who founded the Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne.

Can you tell us what do you love the most about your everyday life here, and give us an idea of your typical day?

A typical working day for me at The Cook’s Atelier might begin with a cup of tea as I sit down with my daughter and we work out the logistics for an upcoming cooking class or workshop. We might be hosting clients for a cooking class or preparing for a wine dinner at our atelier.

I may visit a favourite artisan food producer or take our 1983 2CV car (aka Madeleine) for a ride to visit a local brocante or market. Every day is different, but the focus is always on food and creating the life that I have always dreamed of.

How easy is it for an American to set up a cookery school in France?!

Not easy at all. I think that if it wasn’t for the fact that the core of our business was to create something together on the same side of the pond. It would have been overwhelming. As they say, tons of red tape, but well worth the challenge.
To begin with I just had  a small flat in centre of Beaune; I needed to make a living, and I decided to completely root myself in Burgundy.  So I said to myself – and my daughter – “all I need to work is a small space, a kitchen, a good stove and hey!  … an atelier!”

I remember how nervous I was  for our very first clients!  Ten  French men, together for a  birthday celebration!   But we served them good food in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and they loved it!

Today I love my life here. I have friends, I have got to know all our producers;  and of course  I now have two French grandchildren  … life is perfect!

What do you like about your region of France?

The thing I love the most about this region of France, besides the wine! ,  is that to me, it feels like it is still authentic and although Beaune is small, it is very international.  We receive clients from all over the world.
What words of advice would you have for someone wondering about moving to France?
The process of moving to France can certainly be difficult. Forge ahead. It will be worth the aggravation.  Do what you love every day and people will find you;  we created our life here and the business came  after.   In fact  we had no business plan; we  just started to do what was obvious and our passion became contagious!
It is easy to get hung up on the scary bits, but because we are doing what we really love,  people gravitate … they come into our lives a little, family is very important.  We have put family first, built our life here as a priority and the rest has just fallen into place.
There is a wonderful film on your website about the man who you buy your cheese from, can you tell us a little bit about that?
  Ah!  This is all about the appreciation of the people behind the food we eat – a vital part of our lives.
It has taken years to get to know our suppliers, but gradually from a simple bonjour as we buy from vendors at the market, friendships have developed.   They know we are passionate about food and about what they are doing, so  they opened up to us.
Today our cooking school is at the forefront of an international movement to support local farmers and sustainable food .
In celebration of that simple idea, we have created a film series honouring our favourite artisan food producers.  This film about Yan, the shepherd and cheese maker, is the first of the series.  And we were among his first clients when he started his production a few years ago!
Finally Marjorie, the readers at MFCH just love a good recipe – would you be kind enough to share one with us?
Yes of course!   This is one of our favourite spring recipes, when the local farmers market has stands full of fresh asparagus.

White asparagus with prosciutto and herbs
Serves 4 to 6
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 pound fresh, fat white asparagus (about 16 spears)
6 slices prosciutto, preferably San Daniele
1 lemon, thinly sliced
a small handful of fresh herbs such as flat leaf parsley, chervil or chives
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, a pinch of sea salt, a couple grinds of freshly ground black pepper and stir briskly into an emulsion.  Taste for seasoning.  Stir well again just before dressing the asparagus.
Peel each asparagus spear to within a couple inches from the tip, then break off the woody end.  Steam just until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.  While the asparagus are still warm, dress with the vinaigrette. Wrap each asparagus with a slice of prosciutto.
To serve, arrange the asparagus on a platter.  Tuck the lemon slices in and around the asparagus and scatter the herbs.  This dish is best served at room temperature with a drizzle of lemon juice.[blank]

Merci Marjorie !!

  And thank you all for reading.  If you would like to take a cooking lesson with Marjorie in her Atelier in beautiful Burgundy, then just pop over to her site    and say hello!
Beaune, Burgundy
photos 1 & 2 https://emilyjohnstonanderson.virb.com/
all other pics The Cooks Atelier

40 comments

Julia April 10, 2013 - 8:15 am

Such an inspiring story, and heart-warming for one who has ambitions to return to Brittany to set up a B&B; with a difference!

Thank You!

PS Madeleines! A Proustian moment before breakfast and setting out for the office!

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CÉLINE CHOLLET April 10, 2013 - 9:23 am

Superbe et bien présenté !
Vive la Bourgogne !
Céline.

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Poppy April 10, 2013 - 9:38 am

Good morning, Sharon,

I can't thank you enough for this gorgeous and informative post! I am truly inspired after having visited Marjorie's site, which is so tastefully presented!
What a joy to wake up to this discovery!

Poppy

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zanetastyle April 10, 2013 - 10:52 am

Gosh what a beautiful story and inspiring friend you have! Thanks for sharing and can't wait to make the asparagus recipe(:
The images are lovely…. Hugs z

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Jennifer @ Town and Country Living April 10, 2013 - 12:37 pm

Wonderful story and photos!

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Ms Lemon of Make Mine Lemon April 10, 2013 - 12:40 pm

Nice post. I love to see the simplicity of the food, yet so wonderful.

Oh, and so nice to meet your friends.

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Irina April 10, 2013 - 1:12 pm

Love their blog! and love the stories about your girlfriends, Sharon 🙂
On the top picture she looks so much like Diane Lane, don't you think?

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vicki archer April 10, 2013 - 1:21 pm

What a fabulous friend Sharon… I do admire Marjorie for changing her life and moving to France lock, stock and barrel… and what a wonderful result… xv

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Jennifer C. Webb April 10, 2013 - 2:11 pm

those photos a dreamland. What courage and creativity….inspired.

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Stacey Snacks April 10, 2013 - 2:38 pm

I will paying Marjorie a visit at The Cooks Atelier in September when in Burgundy!

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Magnolia Verandah April 10, 2013 - 3:01 pm

I love these interviews – more please.

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Virginia April 10, 2013 - 4:00 pm

Loved this interview and meeting Marjorie. I will hop on over to her site now!
V

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Patti April 10, 2013 - 4:21 pm

What a beautiful, beautiful post. The film about the shepherd/cheese maker was so wonderful. I have such a passion for sheep…watching them follow their shepherd made my eyes well with tears. The food, the preparation, the love…just a beautiful life! Thank you for sharing. What a blessing to have this friend in your life.

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Maryanne April 10, 2013 - 4:59 pm

Inspiring to say the least!

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helen tilston April 10, 2013 - 5:05 pm

Hello Sharon

I loved reading this interview with Marjorie. I will file away her name for future trips to Burgundy.

Thanks for sharing

Helen xx

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Anonymous April 10, 2013 - 5:16 pm

I was lucky enough to spend a summer in Burgundy years ago.

One of the happiest summers of my life.

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The Blue Farmhouse April 10, 2013 - 5:40 pm

Good morning Sharon,
After reading and watching the film I just had to exhale…and it felt as if I was dreaming…dreaming to one day do everything that I truly love. And I agree with Maryanne…so inspiring to say the least. Well I better wake up and go to work now. But thanks for the remember that "dreams do and can come true".

Rita

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Amelia April 10, 2013 - 6:36 pm

Thorough enjoyed reading about this very inspiring Lady. To pick up and move to another country, despite cultural differences, and make a success of her life is a tale worth telling. Majorie is not only talented but very courageous. Thank you Sharon!

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Laura April 10, 2013 - 7:07 pm

Thank you! I love the Cook's Atelier website. Just had a few minutes of lovely escapism (while eating lunch at my desk) watching the films. Wonderful.

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Michelle Hilton April 10, 2013 - 8:13 pm

follow your dreams..thanks for sharing a beautiful story…love the photo's.

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carolyn bradford April 10, 2013 - 10:19 pm

What a fabulous post! This was fascinating and I am dying to re-read it already! Thanks so much for sharing your friend's story with all of us!

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The enchanted home April 11, 2013 - 12:31 am

I LOVE THIS! I am bookmarking this…how inspiring. This is for anyone who has ever thought of just throwing all caution to the wind and moving to Europe! What a charmed life she leads…and to do what she really loves, how wonderful. I love her outlook and the emphasis placed on those she does business with, like a carefully curated art collection…these things are not rushed but happened over time, that is "so French" to me and I love it! REALLY enjoyed this immensely!

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Kellie from Indiana April 11, 2013 - 2:29 am

What an inspiring interview! How I would love to take a class, but my purse strings are firmly planted in the states 🙁

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Brenda Murphy April 11, 2013 - 4:28 am

First of all, I love the story about another human being moving about this beautiful world. Secondly, I love the food aspect …and the Anne Willan connection (I owned a restaurant and cook-shop for 10 years, and Anne Willans cook books were a staple in my shop!). Finally, the mother daughter connection resonated. Beautiful. Many thanks for bringing us all closer together.

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PamLuvsPink April 11, 2013 - 7:03 am

Hi Sharon!!!

Thank you for inducing us to Marjorie!!!

I love hearing how people from North America move to another country and work at a job they really love. It must be very exciting!! To open a business with ones daughter and making a success of it is amazing!! I'm going to try this recipe on my hubby and son to see what they think of it.

Enjoy the rest of the week!!

Pam
xox

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M.A. the 2nd ~ Frances Russell April 11, 2013 - 11:17 am

Sharon … lovely post and how beautiful that your friend has found her dream and is doing something so special! A cooking school in France …. perfect! Marjorie is gorgeous!
best wishes
Frances

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Dianne April 11, 2013 - 12:43 pm

Marjorie's decision to follow her dream has paid off …. she can enjoy her beautiful grand-children plus run "The Cook Atelier" An inspiring story Sharon.

"All Things French"

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sheepyhollow April 11, 2013 - 2:34 pm

Hello Sharon! Your interview with Marjorie was delightful! What a beautiful mother/daughter team too! Thank you for sharing your friends…very inspiring!

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Sammy April 11, 2013 - 3:08 pm

What an interesting post!

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susanwennerstrom.com April 11, 2013 - 5:08 pm

Wonderful story and beautiful post!! So inspirational on many levels.

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peggy braswell April 11, 2013 - 5:34 pm

How brave + resilient Marjorie is as are you. Thanks for the introduction. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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Linda April 11, 2013 - 6:02 pm

So wonderful to read about another's success, perseverance pays off! This introduction to Marjorie was just what I needed today as I look at the mile-long list of nearly impossible tasks.
Linda from http://www.OneFootinFrance.blogspot.com

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Bente Holst April 11, 2013 - 6:36 pm

Your blog is very beautiful and inspiring. Thanks!
Best regards
https://benteholst.blogspot.dk/

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the polished pebble: April 11, 2013 - 11:08 pm

Beautiful, beautiful beautiful! What a great story about creativity and pushing on in spit of things that may not be perfect at first!

Kelley ; o ))

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debbiespence.com April 11, 2013 - 11:30 pm

To quote the Scarecrow, "Oh joy, rapture!" Today, in my very own little in-box was your wonderful blog. I do not even know how I originally found you but I'm just so glad I did. I enjoy every single post and every charming, dreamy photo that you post. I look forward to a long and lasting relationship, (even though you have no clue who I am. :)) Well, I am a dreamer of all things French and you help me to dream a little more clearly. So greetings new friend and thank you for sharing with us all.

Debbie Spence

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pve design April 14, 2013 - 11:51 am

It just shows how passion and curiosity can drive one's ambitions.
Beautiful lady and story. Lovely friendship.
pve

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Karen (Back Road Journal) April 15, 2013 - 8:13 pm

I always love meeting your friends through your posts and yes…she is very stylish and talented.

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[email protected] April 16, 2013 - 8:01 am

I loved this post – thank you Sharon- as I had planned to go to the Atelier on the same trip that we came and stayed with you. Unfortunately our plans just never made it across to Burgundy. However next year they just might!

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the cook's atelier cookbook (+ a summer recipe) - MY FRENCH COUNTRY HOME June 26, 2018 - 4:02 pm

[…] longtime readers of the blog may remember Marjorie of the Cook’s Atelier in Beaune. She was one of the first Stylish French Girlfriends featured here on the blog, and I have loved watching her business […]

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Kathryn Gauci March 18, 2020 - 2:34 am

Inspiring. I loved Anne Willan’s A Chateau in Burgundy and regularly make some of the recipes, so I will check out Marjorie’s book. It’s a beautiful area. So happy she has made a beautiful life for herself in France. I was recently in Beaune. A great place to be for foodies and wine lovers.

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