Chef, Foodie, Francophone, & Farmer --- How Did I Get Here?


Three years ago, my husband received the scholarship of a lifetime: move to Lyon, France, learn French, earn a higher degree, immerse ourselves in the French culture and travel as much as possible (for more information, visit olmstedfoundation.org.) Needless to say, we eagerly packed up our house in Hampton, VA for our 3-year stint as “language & cultural studies” students. After a farewell tour through Texas, Oklahoma & Illinois, and a generous layover in Paris, we arrived in Lyon, France – our new hometown – toting quite a bit of baggage, including 1000 hopes & dreams, 100 unanswered questions, 8 suitcases, 3 children under the age of 5, 1 grandmother and 0 French.

 Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon

Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon

 In the beginning, it was baby steps - for ALL of us!

In the beginning, it was baby steps - for ALL of us!

 The wonders & joys of a French outdoor market 

The wonders & joys of a French outdoor market 

We enrolled our – then – 3- and 5-year-old boys into a local French school while the hubs dove head-first into language classes. We said, “au revoir,” to grandma, and I along with our baby girl (then 14 months) attempted to blend into our new life. We quickly learned that nursing a 14 to 18-month-old in public, treating yoga pants as socially acceptable daywear (or ‘anywear’ for that matter,) and wheeling a giant baby-jogger through the market were NOT ways to endear oneself to the lovely people of the 6th arrondissement.

 Shopping on the streets of Lyon 

Shopping on the streets of Lyon 

There was definitely an adjustment period; however, once we had the kinks worked out - which included teaching the boys some important playground language like “putain!” and “degage!”, learning to gracefully and politely accept old ladies’ criticisms (in French known as l’education,) and increasing my monthly wardrobe budget – we fell into a lovely routine and a beautiful life.

 L'Institut Paul Bocuse - Cuisine & Culture

L'Institut Paul Bocuse - Cuisine & Culture

Already passionate about the link between cuisine and culture, fresh, in-season produce and locally produced meats, France was my ultimate foodie paradise. I enrolled into a 210-hour intensive “Cuisine & Culture” course at L’Institut Paul Bocuse where I learned traditional techniques, practiced important recipes, tried new flavors, listened attentively to history lessons, lost myself in stories and grew an even deeper appreciation for France, its food and its culture.

Deborah Cater said, “You have to taste a culture to understand it.” So, in the spirit of Ms. Cater and throughout my culinary experiences, workshops, blog posts & instagram, let’s take a stroll through traditions and time, tastes and flavors, vivid colors and fond memories starting with two of the simplest, yet – in my humble opinion – two of the most important basic recipes: mayonnaise and clarified butter.

For those chomping at the bit to dive right in and cook something utterly magnificent (I would love to meet the person who disagrees,) quick! grab onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, peppercorns, red wine and a chuck roast (calf’s foot optional) and start chopping and dicing immediately, because this adapted recipe for Chef's beef paleron will rest in your oven overnight, eventually coming out of hibernation to unveil its near perfect self.

Until next time, bon appetit!

Libby Oroza

p.s. If you're wondering who "Chef" is read "The Moment a French, 3-Star Chef Invites You to a Little BBQ"