Another May Date: Patricia & Walter Wells

Suddenly I’m the calendar girl. This additional date for you to consider on next month’s calendar has me particularly thrilled. The memoir that Patricia and Walter have written, We’ve Always Had Paris…and Provence: A Scrapbook of Our Life in France, is being released early May and they’re setting off on a whirlwind tour of promotion, with Seattle on their itinerary

As part of the local Cooks & Books series, you can join Patricia and Walter for dinner at one of my favorite spots in town, Boat Street Café. There are two seatings, 6:00 and 8:30, on May 14. Call the restaurant directly (and SOON) to reserve your $95 place at the table. A preset menu includes asparagus salad, braised chicken with baby peas and baby turnips and meringues with strawberry-rhubarb compote. I’m there!

They’ll also be doing a book signing up on Orcas Island the next day, at Rose’s Bakery & Café in Eastsound. More details on the book and their nationwide tour are here on her web site. Hint: next time you’re heading to Paris, check out her site for great insider tips on best restaurants to work into your itinerary.

A little over 25 years ago, Patricia and Walter Wells made their way to Paris to work for the International Herald Tribune, him as an editor, her as the restaurant critic. Their life this past couple of decades has been the stuff of fantasy! Not only living in Paris, but exploring every nook and cranny of the city, and the country, doing important food research. Eventually, they bought a lovely, relaxed home in the south of France, complete with garden and vineyard, strolling through the town’s market, lazy dinners on the patio under the trees. (heavy sigh) Surely their book is packed with phenomenal, personal stories and adventures, I can’t wait to read it.

My history with Patricia is one that proves that with the right mentors, anything is possible. In college, while I still thought I’d be an engineer when I grew up, and throw great dinner parties on the weekends, I took one journalism class about features writing. Professor Ragsdale was right out of central casting…grizzled older journalist, floppy trench coat, ragged but sturdy leather valise, world-weary but jovial crinkles on his face, grey hair. I adored him.

I brought up in class one day that an area of personal interest was food, especially French food. He said, “You should get in touch with one of my former students, Patricia Wells.” I nearly fell off my chair. I’d been to Paris for a monthlong class with my French program and her Food Lover’s Guide to Paris was already my bible. I wrote her a goofy fan letter, told her I was beginning to think about getting into food writing. She wrote back the nicest note, very encouraging, said not to let anything get in the way of me realizing my dreams. That already would have been enough.

Fast forward a few years. I get to France to study at La Varenne cooking school and call or write her to say something like “hey, remember me? I’m in France now! Let me know if you need an assistant or anything…” Yeah, goofy again. She kindly said, not now, thanks. A year or so later, I get a phone call. From Patricia Wells. Telling me that her assistant was leaving and did I still want to work for her? Again, I nearly fall off my chair. I could only swing 6 months or so working with her in Paris, given work obligations I had down at Château du Feÿ in Burgundy (whine, whine). But it was a great 6 months! She was polishing off her cookbook with Joël Robuchon and working on updating the Paris guide. I relished every moment of my time working and studying at La Varenne. But to be able to inject that episode of my life with some time working for Patricia Wells? It was homemade rich vanilla buttercream frosting on the cake.

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