Q&A with Dorie Greenspan

Q&A with Dorie Greenspan

Dorie Greenspan visits the Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Photography by
Image by: Dorie Greenspan visits the Canadian Living Test Kitchen <br/> Photography by Author: Canadian Living


Q&A with Dorie Greenspan

With 10 cookbooks under her belt, 5 James Beard awards, and countless other honours from culinary institutions worldwide, you might assume that Dorie Greenspan would have developed a glossy-eyed manner for her umpteenth interview.

Not so. Greenspan's fervour for her craft is so obvious upon meeting her that it's contagious, even for the least inspired in the room. Her genuine excitement to see her own recipes prepared by Canadian Living experts and her steadfast belief that anyone can recreate her recipes is enough to make even the most hopeless cooks believe.

It's no wonder that she’s seen such success and become the trusted kitchen companion of amateur chefs everywhere. Armed with an approachable writing style and enthusiasm for her work, Greenspan has been bringing the pastries of the masters into the kitchens of the masses for years. And now she's bringing her self-schooled style of French cooking to you in her latest cookbook Around my French Table.

Greenspan stopped in to The Canadian Living Test Kitchen to chat with us about the new book, her own kitchen disasters, and working with her heroes.

What can you tell us about Around my French Table?

I could tell you so much about it! This is my 10th book…hard for even me to believe! And it’s a book very close to my heart because the recipes come from my life in France. I split my life between New York and Paris and I loved Paris from the moment I arrived. That's more than 30 years ago. So this book is the story of my long-term faithful love affair with France. It’s the food that I cook when I'm in France; it’s the food that my French friends cook. I also have recipes from young French chefs whose food I really love.

And it’s the food of today. There are some traditional recipes but it's really a book about the new French cooking. They're very simple recipes. I call it “elbows on the table food”. It's food that you want to share with family and friends.

What is a recipe that you would bake or cook after an exhausting day when you want something fresh and delicious, but also easy?

Everybody's busy so there are some really simple great recipes. There's a Pork Tenderloin with Fresh Oranges in Around my French Table. That’s a 20-minute dish! The Chicken Diablo is even less than that. This beautiful Mary Lynn's Apple Cake (points to cake sitting on table in The Canadian Living Test Kitchen) comes together in less than 10 minutes. I know a lot of people save baking for the weekend but a recipe like this could be made very quickly. It could be a weeknight treat.

There are a lot of recipes like that in my new book because people are busy. We'll mix something ready-made with something homemade. So buy the puff pastry! Don't make it yourself.

Page 1 of 3 -- Learn about Julia Child's influence and how chaotic creating a recipe can be on page 2

You've collaborated with a lot of big names such as Julia Child. What have those experiences brought you? Have they changed how you cook?

That’s such an interesting question. I’m not a trained cook. I didn't go to cooking school; I didn't go to pastry school. I've learned by working with terrific people. I've been very lucky. In a way it's like the classic French apprenticeship where you learn by working. And I've learned from everybody that I've worked with.

I've learned about work, about dedication, about focus, about passion, certainly from Julia Child, from Pierre Herme, from Daniel Boulud, from these really great chefs who live their work. For them it's just so much a part of their lives that you almost feel like its what they were meant to do. I remember asking Pierre about where inspiration comes from for him and he said from everywhere, from a visit to a museum, from listening to music, from meeting people.

There are just wonderful bits and pieces that you learn from working with people. I can't put my finger on it but am I a better cook for working with them? Absolutely. It's also about learning something about living when you work with people.

Can you tell us anything about your process? What does it look like when you're creating?

Oooohhhh, is now the time to confess? (laughs) Alright, so here's the truth. I was born without the neatness gene. I'll be working in, let's say, New York, in my messy office and all of a sudden I have an idea and I'll just drop everything and go around the corner to the kitchen and start cooking, or baking and taking furious notes.

When something comes to me and I have an idea I just do it. That’s also why meeting a deadline is so hard. (laughs) I always meet them but you wouldn't want to live with me when I'm getting close to deadline. When I start every project – and Around My French Table is a big project with more than 300 recipes – I make neat lists. My husband does an Excel spreadsheet to check off when I've tested, when I've written, when I've done the headnote, when I've sent it out to be tested, when I've retested. But a few months in…forget about it! I'm not so organized.

Page 2 of 3 - Dorie shares her advice for novice cooks and tells us about her next big project on page 3

Check out the pictures from Dorie's visit here.

What are your words of wisdom for someone who wants to start baking but is an absolute disaster in the kitchen?

I think it's the same for cooking, or for baking, or for writing, or for jumping rope. Just do it. Keep doing it. My first dinner, and my husband remembers it well, was London Bake but it was meant to be London Broil. I couldn't figure out how to get the potatoes done in time. I put peas in a ceramic bowl that I thought was so pretty (it was a wedding present). I put it over a gas flame and it cracked. It was a mess! But, I went back into the kitchen the following day and eventually I got pretty good at London Broil.

Particularly with cooking and baking, there's such satisfaction. You’re a disaster one day; you’re a little bit better the next time, and a little bit better the next. You can see the change. It's not this thankless task of working away and never seeing yourself get better. You really see yourself getting better, you’re making something with your own hands, which I love about cooking and baking. There's the satisfaction of when you've gotten it right. So it’s really about getting back in there and practicing, knowing that it might not be right the first time but just do it. Just get back in there and try again.

After 10 cookbooks, so many awards, and working with all of these different people what's next’s for you?

Three weeks ago I would have said I don't know what's next, but I actually do know. I have thought that – as you said 10 cookbooks, working with so many people – I'd have said, "Ok I've done it. 10. Great number, a cycle of some kind."

I wanted to go to cooking school because I've never gone. Then I thought about it and realized that I probably wasn’t cut out for cooking school at this point in my life.

The way I've always learned – and I've said this to you – is by being next to great people. So I'm going to travel to see all of my heroes. It will eventually be a book about baking and I will go to visit the bakers and the pastry chefs I admire most and beg them to spend a little time with me and teach me something. Then I will come home and practice. I'm going to do exactly what I told you to do! I'm going to go home and practice what I've learned and then I will create recipes using what I've learned. That’s the next thing. It doesn't have a name yet but it’s the kind of my 'Learning, Lessons, Heroes Project'.

Page 3 of 3

Check out the pictures from Dorie's visit here.


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Q&A with Dorie Greenspan