In a long career as a culinary educator and writer, Anne Willan has been recognized many times for her skills as a teacher, for her scholarship, and for her thoughtful, plainspoken approach to subjects as varied as the developing form of the recipe and the boning of a trout. This year the James Beard Foundation is pleased to induct her into the Cookbook Hall of Fame for a distinguished body of work of remarkable diversity and expertise.
As the author or co-author of more than 30 books of instruction and culinary history, Willan has made a series of important contributions to the way in which home cooks, professional cooks, and culinary students learn. Her seminal and lamentably out-of-print La Varenne Pratique (Clarkson Potter, 1989) was inspired by the course of instruction at her École de Cuisine La Varenne, which opened in Paris in 1975. The clarity of its voice, its focus on acquainting readers with the widest possible range of ingredients, and its meticulous guidance through the techniques of classical cooking—coupled with groundbreaking photography—made La Varenne Pratique nearly indispensable both to motivated self-teachers and to trained professionals in search of a quick review of material learned long before.
The charm of Willan’s writing voice has been evident in some of her leisurely explorations of her beloved French cuisine, including the James Beard Award–winning The Country Cooking of France (Chronicle Books, 2007), which was also recognized for its photography, and From My Chateau Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, 2000). In books such as these, Willan puts her readers at ease with the long tradition of French cuisine, inspiring them to step outside their comfort zones and attempt dishes which are more complex than a 15-minute pasta salad but also far more rewarding.
And in books such as Great Cooks and Their Recipes (McGraw-Hill, 1977) and The Cookbook Library (University of California Press, 2012), which she wrote with her husband, Mark Cherniavsky, and Kyri Claflin, and which is a 2013 Book Award nominee in the Reference and Scholarship category, Willan has captured for readers the contributions of earlier cooks and writers who laid the foundations for our current culinary awareness.
Matthew Sartwell is the chair of the James Beard Foundation Book Awards Committee.