Biographical / Historical Note
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Anne Willan papers
Date (inclusive): 1570-2018
178.63 linear feet
(224 boxes, 14 flat file folders. Computer media: 14.86 GB
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 90049-1688
The papers of Anne Willan, a
British-American expert in French gastronomy, provide a comprehensive survey of the
operations of the École de cuisine La Varenne founded by Willan in Paris in 1975 and of
Willan's writings and TV programs. The papers consist of correspondence, brochures, drafts,
typescripts, press clippings, photographs, videos, and electronic records. The archive also
includes drawings, ephemera, manuscripts and prints collected by Willan and her husband Mark
Cherniavsky. Dating from the 16th to the late 20th century, these works illuminate the
preparation and consumption of food and its display in England, France, Germany, Italy, the
Netherlands, and the United States.
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Language: Collection material is in English,
French, Dutch, German, and Italian.
Biographical / Historical Note
A few days before the École de cuisine La Varenne opened in Paris on the rue
Saint-Dominique near Les Invalides in November 1975, the American food critic Craig
Claiborne gave his blessing to the new cooking school in a
article. Notwithstanding the smell of fresh paint and the necessity to make
his way over the newly installed telephone lines, Claiborne described his visit to the
establishment as uplifting. Named after the French cook François-Pierre de la Varenne
(1618-1678), the school was from the onset endowed with the financial support and logistical
advice of culinary experts Julia and Paul Child, James Beard, Simone "Simca" Beck, and that
of Nick Brown-the brother of J. Carter Brown, director of the US National Gallery of Art.
The cooking school benefited from the unwavering partnership of its director, Anne Willan,
with her husband Mark Cherniavsky, a World Bank economist and a collector of antiquarian
books. Willan ensured the continuing success of La Varenne and the culinary programs she
directed in Paris, Burgundy, West Virginia, and later Santa Monica, California. In 2014,
Willan was awarded the rank of
Chevalier of the
Légion d'Honneur for her work over several decades on the
promotion of French gastronomy.
Anne Willan was born on January 26, 1938, in Yorkshire, raised in a house near Newcastle
surrounded by wheat fields, cattle, and church towers that could be seen over the hills in
the distance. Her childhood memories are filled with freshly baked crisp ginger biscuits,
tasty bacon, egg pie and pig lardon, with Thursday being the "baking day, the best day of
the week." After receiving her master's degree in Economics from Girton College at the
University of Cambridge, she pursued an advanced course at the Cordon Bleu School of Cookery
in London. After completing these studies, to the chagrin of her parents, she did not marry
the well-mannered son of the chief librarian of Oxford's Bodleian Library nor a fine
Yorkshireman. Willan credits her restlessness to her adventurous and well-traveled maternal
grandfather, whose wealth also helped finance some of her initiatives. Instead of returning
to Yorkshire, she moved to Paris in the winter of 1963 and went on to earn a Grand Diplôme
at the École de Cordon Bleu. Willan was then hired by Florence and Gérald Van der Kemp to
help with their entertainment efforts related to raising funds for the restoration of the
Château de Versailles. After a stint as a
employee in New York, Willan became a food editor for
, and began writing cookbooks, developing a passion for food writing.
Willan's move to the United States was prompted by the appearance in her life of the
cultured and worldly Mark Cherniavsky, whom she met while in Paris and whom she married on
July 9, 1966. Born in Suffolk, England in 1937, Cherniavsky was the son of a Canadian from
Vancouver and of a Russian-born cellist. He was raised in England, France and Canada, and
educated at the University of Oxford. After briefly working for the Economist Intelligence
Unit in Istanbul and then the Christian Michelsen Institute in Paris, he became an economist
with the World Bank in Washington, DC in 1965. Cherniavsky's studies and career took Willan
and their two children to Boston, Luxembourg and then Paris, where Cherniavsky joined the
World Bank's Paris office from 1975 to 1986. After 1986, Cherniavsky returned briefly to
work at the World Bank's office in Washington before taking an early retirement the
following year. He then dedicated himself entirely to the activities of La Varenne and to
Cherniavsky was a long-time collector of rare books, gathering antiquarian cookbooks,
travel books, and associated texts, eventually amassing one of the world's largest private
collections of antique cookbooks. The oldest book in his collection was an early edition
from 1491 of Johannes Cassianus's
De institutis coenobiorum (On the
Management of Monastic Communities)
, which describes fasting and feasting within a
monastery. The pride of Cherniavsky's collection is a copy of the
Opera by Bartolommeo Scappi, who served as private cook to Pope Pius V. Scappi's
Opera is marked by its authoritative didactic and expansive
text (444 leaves or 888 pages), the harmonious layout of the Renaissance printing type, and
its beautiful engravings that illuminate the preparation and serving of food at the papal
court. Furthermore, these writings helped Willan find and test recipes and learn about the
history of gastronomy, which were incorporated into the curriculum of La Varenne.
Cherniavsky and Willan naturally selected, for their collection, writings that were written
in languages they were fluent in. This led to the focus on French and English cookbooks.
Anne Willan's ambition when creating La Varenne was sparked by her negative experience at
Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the venerable school founded in 1895. A typo in Willan's name in
the certificate of the Grand Diplôme had been the final blow. Willan's desire was to create
an alternative path. Her concept for La Varenne was to teach the practice of food
preparation in a setting encouraging dialogues and questioning, an approach that at the time
had been discouraged by the Cordon Bleu master chefs. Unlike at Le Cordon Bleu, Willan
wanted to use the highest quality and freshest ingredients in the cooking classes, a
practice which eventually became a source of financial difficulties in the accounting books
of La Varenne. She also wanted to promote the use of food processors, such as the Cuisinart
designed by Carl Sontheimer, which at the time was shunned by the famed school. She
incorporated down-to-earth approaches in classes, such as the use of an overhead mirror to
facilitate the viewing of the chefs' techniques. Great emphasis was placed on the teaching
of simple technical gestures, such as the proper cutting of an onion. The school offered a
bilingual training program, which facilitated exposure of the program to students from
abroad. Primarily aimed at students who would go on to become chefs and professionals in the
food industry, the school's recruitment of trainees and interns to assist in writing recipes
and cookbooks also helped mentor many of the future leading writers of major food
publications in the United States.
In 1982, Willan and Cherniavsky purchased a weekend retreat for themselves and their two
children a two-hour drive from Paris near Villecien, Burgundy: the Château du Feÿ. Beginning
in 1988, some of the programming of La Varenne was transferred there. After the closure of
the school's Paris location in 1990, a large portion of La Varenne's instruction was
relocated in 1991 to Le Feÿ. Beginning in 1991, Willan also taught in television programs
and cooking demonstrations at
The Greenbrier in West
Virginia. She became a prolific and popular author of cookbooks as well. In 2007, Willan and
Cherniavsky decided to sell the Château du Feÿ and to move to Santa Monica, California.
There, Willan pursued-instead of a full-fledge accredited program-the organization of
cookery demonstrations with chefs established in California as well as her ongoing passion
in food writing.
Claiborne, Craig. "Upstairs: A new school teaches distinctive cooking,"
The New York Times, November 5, 1975.
One Soufflé at a Time: A Memoir of Food and
. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973.
Open for use by qualified researchers, with the following exceptions: restrictions apply to
items that are fragile and items that have third-party privacy concerns. Born digital
content will be made available on-site only, through the digital preservation repository.
Born digital and audiovisual content is unavailable until reformatted. Contact reference for
Anne Willan papers, 1570-2018, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Anne Willan and Mark Cherniavsky. Acquired in 2018.
Karen Meyer-Roux processed the archive in November 2019-Febuary 2020 and May-August
Digital materials were processed by Laura Schroffel in 2018. Files require further
processing before access copies can be made available.
Conservation work was performed in 2020-2021 by Mark Benson.
For rare books, prints and other works that illuminate the consumption and display of food,
also see the
at the Getty Research Library.
Further related correspondence can be found in:
Papers of Julia Child, 1925-1993, TSchlesinger Library on the History of Women in America,
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, Harvard University.
Papers of Simone Beck, 1920-1993, The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the
History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, Harvard
Scope and Content of Collection
The papers of Anne Willan provide a comprehensive survey of the operations of the École de
cuisine La Varenne founded by Willan in Paris in 1975 and whose programs she also developed
in Burgundy, West Virginia, and California. The school's records consist of brochures,
correspondence, newsletters, recipes and menus, press clippings, films, photographs, and
Willan's writings, whose press coverage is included in the papers, are well documented by
drafts, typescripts, proofs, research files, electronic records and annotated copies of the
publications. Documentation relating to the TV programs produced by Willan consist of full
runs of videocassettes, correspondence and clippings.
The archive includes drawings, ephemera, manuscripts and prints collected by Willan and her
husband Mark Cherniavsky. Dating from the 16th to the late 20th century, these works
illuminate the preparation and consumption of food and its display in England, France,
Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States.
Arranged in four series: Series I. General records, 1954-2015, undated; Series II. École de
cuisine La Varenne records, 1935-2018, bulk 1975-2018; Series III. Writings and TV programs,
1961-2015; Series IV. Anne Willan and Mark Cherniavsky gastronomy collection, 1570-2015.
Subjects - Names
Willan, Anne --
Cherniavsky, Mark, 1937-2017
Child, Julia -- Correspondence
Subjects - Corporate Bodies
École de cuisine La Varenne
Subjects - Topics
Cooks -- Archives
Prints -- Collectors and collecting
Genres and Forms of Material
Clippings (information artifacts).
Black-and-white prints (photographs)