HOW DID I GET THERE?
My first vivid memory of tasting something sweet is deeply interwoven with a sense of excitement and escape. I was about four years old and my mother and I were flying one evening from Clermont-Ferrand—our small hometown—to Paris. Back in the '60s, the airport terminal wasn?t more than a wooden shack. We were flying on an Air Inter Nord 42 propeller plane. We walked across the tarmac with our suitcases to board the plane. I remember the strong smell of jet fuel and the flash of brilliant, clear blue lights of the runway. On board, the seats were plush, the kind you could sink into. Then the flight attendant appeared before me with a basket filled with sucettes—or in English, lollipops. She handed me the biggest lollipop I had ever seen—I mean a foot-long lollipop—a most delicious pretty thing that I devoured as we were departing. The whole plane shook with the roar of the engines and the force of speed as we gained altitude. It was my first memory of something sweet and exciting. From that I recall, almost as a sensation, a burst of freedom.
From this well entrenched sweet memory, I have developed two life passions: creating anything sweet, and a life-long love of planes. My dream as a child was to be a pilot. One passion became a successful career. The other one takes me to airport runways where I am still mesmerized by how gracious planes appear as they take off or land.
Never forgetting that planes are still vessels of dreams, in 1988, I embarked on a search of new horizons, open spaces and new flavours, and landed in New York. That is a journey I have never regretted—a North American love story where I have cooked alongside cooks from every walk of life in cities as vibrant as my curiosity. I discovered that food in North America was tasty, exciting, culturally rich and that the desserts were delicious. The first cookbook I bought after arriving was An American Baker by Chef Jim Dodge. I learned how entrenched baking was here, how centuries of immigrants from Holland, Germany, Italy and other distant places made this a land where I would learn and discover. I fell in love, and, 30 years later, I still get excited, learning new techniques and recipes.
Here are a few of my favourite recipes, from my heart to yours, to enjoy at home among family and friends. The kitchen is the heartbeat of the house; let the sweet smells of baking create long-lasting memories.