Margarite Wolff is a master of the culinary arts. Born in a small town
in the Quercy region, she was raised in a tavern helping her grandparents
run the kitchen. When Margarite showed her great talent, her grandfather
used his influence to get her an apprenticeship with one of the best chefs
of Paris. My mom surprised everyone, when she left her position at Tour
d'Argent to open her own restaurant. In a sexist culture dominated by male
chefs, I think it was one of the bravest and smartest things she ever did.
When I was little, I remember my mother as very strict about everything
except for food. Rene and I used to sneak to the back of the restaurant
while the customers were in front. My Mom would always have left us bowls
of pastry cream to lick clean. While she believed in obeying her husband,
she was absolute ruler in her kitchen and commanded every employee with
the autocratic authority of an empress. The Winter before we left Paris,
Rene and I wanted to make some money over the holidays and we asked to work
in her kitchen. I don't remember exactly what our offense was, but you'd
think a mother would exhibit more compassion towards her own child. After
her public browbeating, I've never been so humiliated. Later on, I don't
even think my mother remembered the episode, it was so unimportant to her.
Just part of running her kitchen.
Tom won Margarite's heart when they first met. She cooked us dinner and he raved about her quenelles: "Never has there been a fish this light. It melts in the mouth and leaves the perfect essence of its flavor. This isn't cooking, it's art." They've been buddies ever since. I always thought that mothers took their daughter's side in an argument with their son-in-law. You live and learn. Tom can convince my mom that I'm a different person than the one she knows I am.