Location: New York, NY
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Married
Education: Columbia University, Self-taught in pastry
At age thirteen, Dorie Greenspan burned down her parents’ kitchen. You could say she was just “warming up” to what would eventually be a wildly successful culinary career.
For nearly a decade after her cooktastrophe, Dorie wouldn’t dare step foot in a kitchen again. Now, over forty years since she’s returned to cooking, FOF Dorie Greenspan has credits on over 10 award-winning cookbooks, is a contributing editor to Bon Appétit and Parade magazines, and has two cookbooks of her own.
But perhaps the truest testament to how far she’s come is her cult fan following. Dorie has 66,000 (and counting) Twitter followers. Hundreds of devout Dorie enthusiasts get together twice each week (“Tuesdays with Dorie” and “French Fridays with Dorie”) to cook her modern, accessible French recipes and blog about them.
“Being a cookbook author takes a certain generosity,” says Dorie. “You’re sharing something so sacred with people—your recipes. And, you are also asking people to trust you to steer them right.”
Make no mistake, these days you can trust Dorie in your kitchen…
Are you French?
I’m not. The first time I went to Paris, I fell in love with the country, the people, the food, the way of life. I came home to my mother in Brooklyn, and said to her, ‘I love you madly, but you made this terrible mistake and had me in Brooklyn.’ I teasingly say I forgave her but spent the rest of my life making up for her poor judgment.
Do you live in Paris now?
Four months of the year. I have three kitchens; New York, Connecticut and Paris. I wrote Around my French Table after I bought a place in France.
You burnt down your parents’ kitchen as a child?
Yes. When I was 13 my friends and I decided to make French fries and it was disastrous. I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen after that, but I didn’t really have an interest in cooking again until many years later.
How did you finally get cooking again?
Once I got married as a college student, I started cooking and baking and loved it. I didn’t know it could be a career, so I went to graduate school for gerontology but never finished my dissertation. After our son was born, all I wanted to do was bake. I tried to bake professionally but I wasn’t very good at it. I was so slow. Everyone at the restaurant would be waiting upstairs for their cake and I was still frosting it. So then, in my thirties, I began writing about food.
Did you go to culinary or pastry school?
I never went to culinary school but I had great apprenticeships. I got to work with Julia Child, Pierre Hermé—a famous pastry chef in France—and Daniel Boulud.
Julia Child—that’s fantastic. What did you do with her?
I wrote Baking with Julia to accompany the PBS television series. She was a great friend, and I adored her. I love her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That’s really how most of us over fifty learned about French food. That book is now 50 years old.
Is Around My French Table an updated version of Julia Child’s cook book?
Julia’s book will always be the bible. My book is a more modern and personal look at French food. It’s not Escoffier, it’s not Julia Child, it’s not a textbook. It’s a kitchen journal. Just as American food has changed, French food has changed. It’s lighter, it’s more diverse. In writing Around My French Table I had the chance to really give people a snapshot at what French food is like today.
You published quite a few successful books before Around my French Table, is that correct?
Up until this book, all my books were about pastry. This book is proof that during all those years when I was feeding my kids cookies and cakes, I was making them eat their dinner first.
Do you have a favorite recipe from your new book?
That’s not a fair question! I love ‘Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake.’ She’s my editor for the Louis Vuitton Guide to New York and a great cook. She makes this cake I adore but doesn’t use a recipe. The French call it cooking ‘au pif’ or by instinct. I worked and worked to get the recipe right, just the way she wanted.
Where do you shop for your ingredients?
For Around My French Table I shopped in the supermarket as much as I could. I wanted all my readers, no matter where they live, to be able to replicate the recipes.
How difficult is cookbook writing?
Any kind of writing is hard work that takes passion, knowledge, patience and diligence. But, when you write a cookbook, you are also asking people to trust you to steer them right. People are going to go out, buy ingredients and plan dinners around your recipe. You don’t want them to be disappointed. This means writing recipes very carefully and testing them over and over and over again to make sure they’re going to work.
Do you have favorite cookbooks?
I must own thousands. Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts was a wonderful inspiration for me. As I was learning to cook, I also adored all Simone Beck’s books and Richard Olney’s Simple French Food. As for new books, I like Amanda Hesser’s book The Essential New York Times Cookbook. It’s a masterpiece. Sarabeth Levine’s new book, Sarabeth’s Bakery is also so beautiful!
Do you have any favorite blogs?
I often read my friends’ blogs to see what what they’re cooking and I have my own blog. I love Paris Breakfasts. Carol Gillott is such a talented artist. I look at David Leibovitz’s blog about Paris. I follow Hungry for Paris by my friend Alexander Lobrano and I read Paris by Mouth to find out what’s happening on the Paris food scene. Oh, and I have a friend in Zurich who has a great blog called MyKugelhopf.
Do you have a favorite cooking app?
I love Martha Stewart’s cookie app. It’s beautiful, clean and easy to use.
Do you have a favorite French restaurant?
Any of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants. I adored working with him and loved his food. I think he’s found the most interesting way to stay French and be modern American at the same time.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a book about French pastry. My husband calls it ‘Around my French Oven’ but I don’t have a title for it yet. It’s going to be published by Houghton Mifflin who published my last two books. It will be the sweet version of Around My French Table. I’m also working on my app called Baking with Dorie. We just shot a ton of videos for it. What really excites me about it is it gives me another way to connect to and teach home bakers and home cooks. I also started a pop-up cookie boutique in New York with my son, Joshua. It’s called CookieBar.
How do you decide what to write about?
I’ve always written what I love, and I’ve been so lucky I’ve had editors and publishing houses that have allowed me to.