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The inspiring and delicious memoir of an American woman who had the gall to open a cooking school in Paris—a true story of triumphing over French naysayers and falling in love with a city along the way
“An engaging, multilayered story of a woman navigating innumerable cultural differences to build a life in Paris and create her dream: to establish a French cooking school.”—David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen
When Jane Bertch was seventeen, her mother took her on a graduation trip to Paris. Thrilled to use her high school French, Jane found her halting attempts greeted with withering condescension by every waiter and shopkeeper she encountered. At the end of the trip, she vowed she would never return.
Yet a decade later she found herself back in Paris, transferred there by the American bank she worked for. She became fluent in the language and excelled in her new position. But she had a different dream: to start a cooking school for foreigners like her, who wanted to take a few classes in French cuisine in a friendly setting, then bring their new skills to their kitchens back home. Predictably, Jane faced the skeptical French—how dare an American banker start a cooking school in Paris?—as well as real-estate nightmares, and a long struggle to find and attract clients.
Thanks to Jane’s perseverance, La Cuisine Paris opened in 2009. Now the school is thriving, welcoming international visitors to come in and knead dough, whisk bechamel, whip meringue, and learn the care, precision, patience, and beauty involved in French cooking.
The French Ingredient is the story of a young female entrepreneur building a life in a city and culture she grew to love. As she established her school, Jane learned how to charm, how to project confidence, and how to give it right back to rude waiters. Having finally made peace with the city she swore to never revisit, she now offers a love letter to France, and a master class in Parisian cooking—and living.
About the Author
Jane Bertch has spent more than two decades living and working in Europe. In 2009, she started La Cuisine Paris, which has become the largest nonprofessional culinary school in France. She holds a BA in English, an MA in labor and industrial relations from the University of Illinois, and an executive MA from the French business school INSEAD. The French Ingredient is her first book.
“I love everything about this book. I love how Jane Bertch tells her story with sparkle and charm even when her prospects are daunting and dim. I love that the school she created from a dream grew to be cherished around the world. I love Jane’s spirit and can-do-ness and how she figured out the very tricky balance of being an American in Paris. And I love what she teaches us about facing challenges, holding on to what’s dear and sharing what’s learned. Like its author, The French Ingredient is funny, generous, witty, wise and whip smart.”—Dorie Greenspan, New York Times bestselling author of Baking with Dorie
“I loved following Jane around Paris as she built her dream business. I relished her excitements and frustrations as she absorbed her new life and balanced it with her commitments from home. Savvy, determined, resourceful Jane—her exhilarating story lures us all to take a big chance. Or at least to move to Paris.”—Frances Mayes, author of Women in Sunlight
“A rare Paris memoir that’s astute and boldly honest about how challenging it is to create a happy life in this beautiful city . . . It takes intelligence, charm, hard work, and gumption to prevail in Paris. Jane has all of these qualities, which is why the story of how she built a life and an internationally renowned cooking school in Paris is such a fascinating read.”—Alexander Lobrano, author of My Place at the Table
“The French Ingredient differs from the bounty of books about living and working in Paris as an American. The reader discovers that the French are not all maddening and inflexible, but also imaginative, hard-working, and attentive to life’s pleasures, great and small. A captivating read.”—Thad Carhart, author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank
“Seasoned with wisdom Jane learned along the way, The French Ingredient is the engaging, multilayered story of a woman persevering, overcoming obstacles in her search for happiness, and sharing the joys of French cuisine to people from around the world.”—David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen and Drinking French