Interview with Stuff.co.nz

Cafe Chat: Dr Wendy Joyce, academic and chef

By Janan Jedrzejewski 

A Wellington-based academic and chef with a PhD from Princeton University, has developed a unique cooking class - combining art history with culinary techniques. 

American-born Dr Wendy Nolan Joyce teaches a series called "Cooking with the Impressionists".  Each lesson looks at one artist, and recreates a recipe they would have made - or a dish inspired by them. 

Joyce, 49, says it started when she saw a painting of apple tarts by Claude Monet, at an exhibition in Philadelphia. Through her research, she found that the struggling artist, then in his 40s, had painted it as payment for his stay at a Normandy hotel.

"[I] then found out that Monet was a huge foodie," she says. "He kept recipes and had a big volume of notebooks. [He] made friends with chefs, and invited them to his house."

Joyce was on track to become a professional dancer until she suffered a foot injury at the age of 16. At 18, she moved to New York to pursue one of her other passions, French, which she studied at Barnard College. 

After graduating, she returned to France, where she had spent the third year of her degree.
During her six years in Paris, she'd ask busy cooks for their recipes, and still has their handwritten notes. Her love of food started in her childhood, thanks to her family.

"My grandfather was Polish and used to cook some interesting things... different kinds of sausages and chrusciki, fried pastries. 

"My mum still is the most amazing backer and has Bon Appetit magazines. We would watch Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. I started really young, before the age of 10, trying to make multi-course meals for my family. 

Joyce's mother also encouraged playfulness, occasionally holding "indoor picnics", and teaching her children how to dine at a fine restaurant.    

"[She'd] write little invitations out... we would have to dress up, us three little kids, and go around to the front door and pretend to be guests. It was really cute."

Joyce moved to New Zealand in 2011. In 2013, after completing a creative writing MA at Victoria University, she studied culinary arts at WelTec. 

Joyce now splits her time between lecturing at Victoria University and her cooking classes, which are held at Wellington High School. This year, for Wellington on a Plate, she has collaborated with Jardin Grill at Sofitel Wellington.    

Top Tip: When it comes to recipes with garlic, you don't have to put it in first, she says, despite what a cookbook tells you.  

"Recipes almost always start by saying, 'chop the garlic, fry and add the onion'." 

"I always tell people that's ridiculous. Garlic cooks and burns so much faster than other vegetables.

"If you're going to start a base for a sauce, and saute carrots, onions, garlic, I always start with the thing that's denser.

"So, start with the carrots, then add the onions. Then the garlic, and keep a close eye on it."


This article first appeared on stuff.co.nz. Read the article online here.


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