Blandine is a prodigious cookery writer and many of her books have been on the bestseller list for years. Currently she has five books in the top 30 cookery books on French Amazon. She writes under her own name and uses a pseudonym as well. Before becoming a cookery writer, food stylist and recipe developer Blandine worked as a caterer in Montreal and before that she was a costume maker for movies and doing textile creations for the iconic Cent Ideé magazine in the nineteen eighties.
Did you go to art school originally and if so where and what did you study?
I went to Beaux Art in Lyon but I left after a year because it was all conceptual art and I wanted to learn techniques. Also I couldn’t afford to study for 5 years and come out of art school with no practical skills. So I decided to go to the technology institute instead to learn fashion techniques. I applied to study both the fashion and cookery, I got onto both courses and tossed a coin to make the choice. So I ended up studying fashion.
What happened next?
I started working as a pattern maker, producer and stylist managing the fashion output in a number of factories. Very soon I needed to do something more creative so I made things, at night and during the weekend, for movies, advertising and DIY magazines like cent ideé. I also made models for Haute Couture shows.
I met my husband and followed him to Montreal for his career, and in Montreal there was less opportunity for fashion and design so I started a catering business, with a friend, from my kitchen. Within six months we were catering for hundreds of weddings and events. I started to design the food to go with the event. For example if it was a biblical theme I only served finger food, fish, grapes bread and wine all served in the style of the last supper. I designed costumes for the waiters to fit in with the occasion. We only used unique platters and dishes rather than catering ones. I even designed my own vessels. My clients were mainly galleries, fashion and movie companies
When and why did you return to France?
We returned to France mainly for my husbands work and as soon as I returned to France I started catering for private parties and met editors and started being a food stylist and writer and I never stopped.
What is a typical working day like for you or is there no such thing?
There is no such thing. If I am working on a book, I look for inspiration mainly in my head I write a summery and submit it to my editor. If it is accepted I write a rough for the recipes. I create a mood board for styling the book, and when that is approved I gather props together. I find most of them in garage sales. Props become obsolete very quickly. I collect props all year round, I am always on the look out for them. I make most of my own backgrounds, painting and distressing, making a patina on reclaimed board or old shutters found in the garbage. I like using old metal shutters to get weathered elements. I cook the recipe and style it with the photographer. After that I collaborate with the editor to check it all works. Sometimes working on a book will included gutting a boar or finding a pig to dig truffles on the day of the shoot or milking a goat. Foraging wild plants and mushrooms that are the heart of my cooking. I had to do all this when creating my book Banquet Gaulous (eating like the Gauls)
One of the reasons I am interviewing successful women who are over forty is that they have often had to take a career break, or had to slow down to deal with child care and or aged parents. Have you ever had to deal with either of these of issues and did it impact on your creative life or business?
I was lucky to have a supportive husband and accommodating son. My son, who is now 30, says I could never eat anything from the fridge without first asking “ is it for a contract” I didn’t work as much for the first few years when we came back to France, as I was working on the house, and creating a garden from wild plants. My other love is wild plants.
What is the best part of your work and what is the worst part?
The best part of my work is not working in an office and being my own boss. Not commuting and working from home. The worst part is when I have a difficult editor.
Do you broadcast at all?
I have been on radio a few times to promote my books. I have been invited a few times on shows to discuss particular topics for example recipes using milk.
What is the best book you have ever written?
My first book SOS Restes a left over alphabet book that wasn’t a huge success as using left overs at that time was not trendy and you were considered to be a scrooge.
Blanquet Galois is the best book I have ever produced. It was entirely shot in my house and on my land in Languedoc-Roussillon using locally sourced ingredients and wild plants from my land. Also because I was able to do my own art direction and my editor fully trusted me.
Who or what inspires you?
My mother inspired me, she cooked, knitted, sewed mended and foraged. She taught me about wild plants and mushrooms. It is very trendy now, but for her it was necessity. My father who was a forest ranger taught me botanic Latin and the love of gardening. I am connecting again with my peasant roots by butchering a pig every winter with my friends. This is an excellent mix of ancient recipes and modern creations.
What advice would you give to any cookery author starting out today?
I would encourage a beginner to expect hard work and not to fall into the internet cut and paste trap. Be as true as you can on the plate. Don’t rely on the photographer to photo shop it. In spite of all the cook shows and digital cookery videos and you tube, the cookbook still has a future it is surprising and refreshing. The cookbook is not dead yet.
What is next for your work?
I am going to leave Paris to live in the country in my house in Langadoc and feed myself and forage as much food as I can and I hope to write my last book about it. If I am on holiday after five days I get very agitated if I am not making. I love to make and to create things. I particularly like building.
Read all about Balndine’s fabulous house which we also wrote about : House of Fun
Juliet Bawden www.creativecolour.org