This is my interview with Jane Webster.
What traditions from your childhood do you continue? One of my favourite traditions from my childhood is the annual trimming of the Christmas tree. Three or even four weeks before Christmas we choose a date and invite the grandparents around for weekly dinner, but have a finger food dinner instead while we trim the Christmas tree complete with carols playing throughout the house. The children trim the tree in whatever fashion they like. As years have gone on this has become far more colour co-ordinated and designed than the early years, but always with the precious decorations made as tiny little people at kindergarten and school.
Who or what gave you an appreciation of garden, interiors, antiques and food? I grew up in a home filled with antiques. My parents were both antique dealers in High Street, Armadale, which, when I was growing up, was the premier antique strip in Australia. Mum and Dad were passionate gardeners and Mum had an eclectic, beautiful eye for design and interiors. My love of cooking and food comes directly from hours spent at the knees of my paternal grandmother who taught me to bake at the age of four. I’ve felt most comfortable and content in the kitchen ever since.
Please describe in detail your ideal bookshop. My ideal bookshop is crammed from ceiling to floor with books, nooks to sit and preferably a lovely area for a coffee while you flick through the books. I’m constantly on the look for beautiful book shops. My favourites are: Shakesphere and Co in Paris, Librairie Galignani; Paris, My Bookshop; Hawkburn Village, Berkelouw Books & Hill of Content; Bourke Street, Melbourne.
What is your favourite image in this book and why? The image above of my youngest daughter and my father is probably my most treasured image. My Dad died very unexpectedly two years ago. He was a very important part of our family. He just did wonderful with his grandchildren and we all miss him dreadfully. We feel blessed to have such special moments captured by the very talented Robyn Lea, photographer.
Can you describe a week in the life of a student at your cooking school? Most mornings we visit a market or place of interest such as Deauville, Rouen, Honfleur, Etretat and Giverney. We have classes and taste testings most afternoons or evening.
When do you run your cooking classes? Between May and September. There is also a group in December. The courses are held here at Chateau Bosgouet and there are also courses in Lake Como, Bordeaux, Lyon, Annecy and a course; In the Steps of Julia Child. We also do private weeks for groups of 5 – 8 people.
What was the best thing about writing these books? I loved the solitude and indulgent nature of this genre of writing. In particular ‘At My French Table’ was such a diary of our families adventure when we first bought Chateau de Bosgouet and moved to the French countryside for two years while we worked hard to bring her back to life. The children were all quite young at the time and the book represents a very precious couple of years were we all took risks and showed great courage. Particularly the children who went to French school and had no French!!!
Can you describe the mix of people who attend your cooking school? We get all manner of guests at The French Table; mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, girlfriends, mothers and sons, singles and all age groups. More and more I find myself hosting a week for a group of friends. People ask me to put on a French Table for a private group of 6 – 8 people which is great fun.
What are you working on next? I’m currently writing a third installment based on the French and their food philosophy with 100 recipes from my Chateau Kitchen. It should be out for Christmas 2016.
Do you collect anything? I collect blue and white China which I absolutely adore. I have many ginger jars, bowls and vases as well as sets of Gien plates, a whole vintage Villeroy & Boch breakfast set which suits Chateau Bosgouet beautifully.
Read my review of ‘At My French Table’ and ‘French Ties’ here.