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Christmas in Burgundy: At Home with the Expat Family Behind the Cook’s Atelier

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Christmas in Burgundy: At Home with the Expat Family Behind the Cook’s Atelier

December 20, 2017

At home in Burgundy, France, Kendall Smith Franchini and her family have plenty of reasons to celebrate this holiday season. She and her mother, Marjorie Taylor, are about to mark the 10th anniversary of the Cook’s Atelier, their cooking school in Beaune, France. They’re also publishing their first cookbook, The Cook’s Atelier, a recipe-filled chronicle of small-town life in the French wine region; it’s out this April from Abrams. And thanks to Kendall’s husband, Laurent Franchini, their Burgundy-accented kitchen boutique and wine shop is fully open in their headquarters and online—providing Marjorie and Kendall with the perfect excuse to prowl the local flea markets.

All of this, mother and daughter tell us, is the result of a long-shared dream for the two of them. “Kendall has been a Francophile since she was a little girl,” says Marjorie, explaining that she herself as a 25-year-old single mom had apprenticed at a series of French restaurants in Phoenix, where they lived, “because I wanted to learn classic French technique.” Marjorie became a pastry chef and co-owned a small Phoenix restaurant and cooking school. Nearly a decade later, to begin a new chapter, she spent six months in Burgundy working under Anne Willan at La Varenne cooking school. Meanwhile, after a formative high school trip to Paris, Kendall earned her BA—in French and art history—and went on to study viticulture at the Centre de Formation Professionnelle et de Promotion Agricole, the main wine school in Beaune, and to work for Berkeley wine importer Kermit Lynch. Together, mother and daughter set their sights on Burgundy as a place to sink their roots and create a business. All of that has come to pass, along with two children and a charming fixer-upper for Kendall and Laurent. Kendall invited us to have a look at her family’s newly remodeled place and their Christmas festivities.

Photography by Anson Smart, courtesy of The Cook’s Atelier.

laurent, who grew up in the south of france, leads their children, luc, 6, and 9
Above: Laurent, who grew up in the South of France, leads their children, Luc, 6, and Manon, 4, home with a Christmas tree from their own backyard: “The previous owner was an avid arborist and passionate gardener, so the land on which our little house sits feels like a park with plenty of shade trees and a little orchard at the end of the garden,” says Kendall.
marjorie lives nearby and arrives midday every christmas in her vintage \2cv wi 10
Above: Marjorie lives nearby and arrives midday every Christmas in her vintage 2CV with presents on the roof: “It’s become a family tradition,” says Kendall. Their cooking school is 20 minutes away in an 18th-century building in the heart of Beaune: See A Year in Burgundy: The Cook’s Atelier.
the couple&#8\2\17;s stone house is in a tiny village along the route des g 11
Above: The couple’s stone house is in a tiny village along the Route des Grands Crus. It dates to the early 19th century and was originally a walnut mill—for making flour and oil—and later the home of the local baker. The firewood Laurent is carrying is for the original fireplace and bread oven.

ready for guests. kendall tells us the house had been used as a summer place in 12
Above: Ready for guests. Kendall tells us the house had been used as a summer place in recent years and was in need of a lot of work when they bought it, including a heating system. “The first thing we did was to open up the main kitchen/living space into one large room. Laurent installed the wood floor and we painted the house from top to bottom with gallons of white paint [a shade similar to Farrow & Ball’s All White. Like so many young couples on a budget, we’ve done a lot of the renovation on our own.”
The artisan who made the Cook’s Atelier wine racks was hired to build the iron stair—it leads to a work-in-progress attic space that has been designated the future master bedroom. The sofa is the Stocksund, $599, from Ikea (and if you like the turned wood legs, they’re available as a Stocksund four-pack for $20). The coffee table is a tag sale trunk topped with a piece of marble from Laurent’s grandmother. The unadorned Christmas tree communes with the pine clippings that decorate the dining area: “We like to keep things very simple,” says Kendall.

a gold framed mirror from laurent&#8\2\17;s grandmother hangs over a sidebo 13
Above: A gold-framed mirror from Laurent’s grandmother hangs over a sideboard lined with the Thirteen Desserts, a symbolism-laden Provençal tradition (and nod to Laurent’s heritage) that includes nuts, dried fruit, and sweets. A recipe for the chocolate disks known as mendicants is in the forthcoming cookbook; Kendall makes them and the truffles with the children every year.
mother and daughter in the kitchen/dining area off the living room. 14
Above: Mother and daughter in the kitchen/dining area off the living room.

Kendall and Laurent introduced new cabinets from Ikea and a farmhouse sink, but preserved the stone fireplace and exposed beams. The farmhouse dining table is paired with classic Tolix Marais A Chairs.

the lacanche range came out of their cooking school&#8\2\17;s first locatio 15
Above: The Lacanche range came out of their cooking school’s first location. “We retired the stove to our own kitchen  when we expanded and moved the Cook’s Atelier to its current location in 2013.” Items from school’s own line of Mauviel Copper Cookware hang on a metal rail.

Kendall learned to cook from her mother, who is shown here making a béarnaise sauce to go with a côte de bœuf; both recipes are in their book. “We always serve fish on Christmas Eve and keep it very South of France for Laurent’s family who visit: fresh oysters, sometimes a bouillabaisse,
often moules marinières. For Christmas, we’ll do a rib chop like you see or wild game, such as a filet of venison. We like to prepare the meal in courses,
starting with a festive aperitif and ending with the thirteen desserts.”

wood neatly stacks in a brick niche under the fireplace. 16
Above: Wood neatly stacks in a brick niche under the fireplace.
to brighten and unify the dining area, the couple painted the china cabinet and 17
Above: To brighten and unify the dining area, the couple painted the china cabinet and rocker the same white as the walls.
every christmas, kendall gets out the paper stars she made when she and laurent 18
Above: Every Christmas, Kendall gets out the paper stars she made when she and Laurent were just married. “I used German glass glitter and they’ve taken on a nice patina over the years.”
kendall sticks to all white tableware that she uses daily as well as for holida 19
Above: Kendall sticks to all-white tableware that she uses daily as well as for holidays, and mixes with vintage glassware and cutlery. “My mom and I have very similar taste; we like to buy things that will last a lifetime and have a particular attachment to items that have a past.” Similar versions of most of her wares can be found in the Cook’s Atelier Vintage Department.
bay leaves from the garden and antique brass candlesticks decorate the table. 20
Above: Bay leaves from the garden and antique brass candlesticks decorate the table.
classic apilco plates (available from williams sonoma) are topped with antique  21
Above: Classic Apilco Plates (available from Williams-Sonoma) are topped with antique embroidered linen napkins. The Bone-Handled Steak Knives are made for the Cook’s Atelier by La Forge de Laguiole.
kendall and laurent met in paris through a mutual friend; prior to joining the  22
Above: Kendall and Laurent met in Paris through a mutual friend; prior to joining the family business, Laurent worked in tourism. Kendall is shown here tossing a citrus-fennel salad made with watermelon radishes, pomegranate seeds,  and parsley.
the house has two bedrooms and the couple added a third by converting one of th 23
Above: The house has two bedrooms and the couple added a third by converting one of the house’s two attic spaces into their quarters. The chandelier, like the one in the living room, came from a local flea market.

When they move their bedroom to the other attic, this space will be used as a kids’ study room.

kendall uses old french confiture jars as outsized votive holders: &#8\2\20 24
Above: Kendall uses old French confiture jars as outsized votive holders: “They’re perfect for candles because they’re heat resistant.” And, yes, these, too, often appear in the Atelier’s shop.

the couple left the old stone walls as is and painted the front door, windows,  25
Above: The couple left the old stone walls as-is and painted the front door, windows, and shutters a slate gray similar to Benjamin Moore’s Evening Dove.
Go to A Year in Burgundy: The Cook’s Atelier in Beaune to see our post about the school: Marjorie and Kendall offer daylong market tours and cooking classes, as well as five-day programs.

For more festive—and simple—decorating ideas, go to our Holiday Archive, including:

Product summary  Item 7 139Item 8 140

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