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Cordon-Bleu: From Winemaker to Top Chef

Our garden this July is so dry. But the tomatoes Jean-Marc grew from seed are flourishing. There are hardly any on the vines because we are eating them all the time.

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TODAY’S WORD: Le Cordon-Bleu

    : A whizz in the kitchen, a master chef

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

When chatting with other couples one of the things I love asking is, "Qui fait la cuisine chez vous?" Who does the cooking at your place? Often they'll reply, "C'est mon mari." It's my husband. He loves to cook! I feel a little wishful when I learn about this delicious arrangement. Quelle chance to have a partner who cooks for you and takes charge in the kitchen. What a treasure!

This summer, after 29 years of marriage, I finally realized I had the very same trésor right here at home, buried beneath a stockpot of resistance. Reasons for not asking my husband to cook include anything from he won’t clean as he goes to he doesn’t believe in expiration dates. And his excuse for keeping (and using?) moldy cheese is: “Consider roquefort!” (How about considering botulism!) 

But all that doesn’t mean my husband doesn’t know how to faire la cuisine. He even has a few specialties up the sleeve of his chemise: Spaghetti au Roquefort, les Moules Marinières, le Magret de Canard, and his spectacular Les Bananes Flambées. He has also mastered le braséro (an elevated fire pit that is all the rage in France at the moment) so why not let him loose in the kitchen and finally put up my feet and rest during the lunch rush?

"Do you think you could cook those bell peppers?" I cautiously began, testing the waters. "And add in the crevettes?" Just like that, some three weeks ago, I handed over meal prep to my husband much like I do with our travel plans (with one mutually understood caveat): Jean-Marc would cook, and I wouldn’t complain if I didn't like his choices.

Just as I kept quiet when the rain began trickling into our rented RV (my husband's choice for our recent travel accommodations), I didn't make a peep when he added some freshly-cooked sausage to my 3-day-old potato salad (I was saving it for myself. It wasn't intended for our guests!). 

Thankfully, our cordon-bleu-in-training hasn't revived any other leftovers lately: mostly he’s innovating in the kitchen. This week, he took a favorite tomato pie recipe to a new level, by using his own garden fresh tomates grown from seed. Our son said it was the best tomato tart he’d ever tasted. Did you really have to rub it in, Max?

In addition to the freedom and extra time delegating these kitchen duties has given me, it's also offered up some good grub. Just thinking about la bouffe is making me salivate. Are you, too, hungry for some of Jean-Marc’s cheese-based tomato tart? I’m sure he’d be happy to share it with you, but méfions-nous du fromage! He likes aged varieties, whether or not they're meant to mature....


To leave a comment or to read the comments, click here. Thanks in advance for your shares. I love hearing from you and learning from your experiences.


Jean-marc tarte tomate tomato pie
Look at those homegrown tomatoes! Jean-Marc is making a tomato pie or tarte tomate. Recipe here.


Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce the following words:

Qui fait la cuisine chez vous? = Who does the cooking at your place?
C'est mon mari = it's my husband
quelle chance = what luck
le trésor = treasure
faire la cuisine = to cook
la chemise = shirt
le braséro = fire pit cooker
la crevette = shrimp
le cordon-bleu = master chef, a whizz in the kitchen
la bouffe = grub
méfions-nous = let’s beware

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Kristi jean-marc max wooden boat  la ciotat mediterranean
Max and kristi

Jean-Marc, me, and our son Max, out on the boat. Photo by Ana B.
STORY ARCHIVES: Read about the time Jean-Marc "cooked" the police. Story here.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Our dear Kristi,
Oh my gosh!! What another absolutely wonderful post today!!! The pictures of you,Jean Marc and (now grown up!) Max are just joyful!( such a gorgeous family you have!) Plus a very utile,fun vocabulary to top it all off ! And this is not to even mention that heavenly looking tarte tomate!! MIAM!!
Your( always insightful) subject matter had me smiling ear to ear.I would wager( though quite honestly not certain of the sum right now ) that Adam and Eve had the very same kitchen discussions! Obviously they did succeed in settling everything -- creating total food for thought for us!!
Blessings always, ma chere
Natalia. Xo
Las Vegas ( today is 109! Yikes!!)

Sherry Frank

I have been using your tarte tomates recipe for years. It is the best. 😁

Suzanne Dunaway

Love that you have an in-house chef and if you’d like a trick with your tomato tart here it is: slice all the tomatoes and put them on a big plate, salt and pepper and let them sit before you make the tart and you can pour off the juice to use and I got a spatula and your tart will not be soggy. And those are beautiful tomatoes by the way, Gardener and the chef! Felicitations..

Carmen Clarke

Lucky you!! How do you get the tomatoes before the birds/bugs?


Wow - look at those tomatoes - they are beautiful. Congratulations and from seed. Impressive. Enjoy!!


Beautiful chef, chefess, and ‘child’!! It looks like all are having a wonderful time! But, where’s your hat??

Would love the tomato tart recipe-thought I had it but…. So wonderful that J-M is cooking !!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Judi. No hat needed—the picture was taken at just before sundown. 

Kristin Espinasse

Great tip, Suzanne. Thank you! 

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Carmen. Jean-Marc has been harvesting them early. But we haven’t had a problem with insects so far (not for the tomatoes at least).

Karen in Northport, NY

Well, that will get me out to the farm stand! My own tomato plant has two green ones so far. Let's goooo. It's nearly August. But no matter, I won't use the stove if the air conditioner is on and we've got 90/90 for a few days. That's
90+°F (33+°C) and 90% humidity. Air you can wear. Not really unusual but uncomfortable.
I envy you your in-house chef. I rely on local restaurant delivery when I am kitchened out. Though food poisoning gets to be less of an adventure and more of an avoidable trip to the ER as those years roll by. There's roquefort and there's e coli, listeria, salmonella, etc, etc. At some point old food is so not worth the risk. Troisiemme prep.


We have used this tarte provencal recipe for so many years. It's one of the joys of our summer. When we lived in France feuillete was available in every store, but in the U.S. it's hard to find. And the tomatoes are not as good. But we carry on. During our month in Sanary-sur-Mer in May this year we managed to make a couple of these. Bon appetit!

Jennifer Coute-Carmellino

This post made me laugh out loud. Though my husband (a Frenchie) is a better, more resourceful chef then I am(Americaine), I sometimes need to leave the kitchen when he cooks. The leftovers, the old cheese, the lack of cleaning as he goes.....add to that, his savage love for chicken, eating it as he cooks, and the fact that he'll wipe his (unsoaped) hands on the kitchen towels or if one isn't in front of him...his pants. Sometimes I simply can't watch!
I look forward to your posts, and have enjoyed them for many years.
Thank you!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Jennifer. Your comment made me laugh out loud too! I loved when you said you have to leave the room. 😂 Bon courage and bon appétit!

henrik døcker

Thought that Cordon Bleau was something to eat (at least outside France?)
Just a remark from a poor Dane who must tackle alle the linguistic niceties in English, French, German!


A man and a tarte and another tarte - a perfect kitchen pin up and amuse gueule! Thankyou.

Sue J.

Spaghetti au Roquefort? Please oh please post the recipe! Merci in advance.

janet davis

Mon mari is doing ALL the cooking since he retired and I still work. But yes, expiration dates mean nothing!!!!

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