cook, teacher, writer, pastry chef, wannabe food scholar
Hep! (That’s the Cancale equivalent of “hi” or hey.”) I’m Mary Margaret Chappell. Mary Margaret to English speakers, Mary to most people in France, M or MM to close family, colleagues, and friends.
For 10+ years, I have been living and working in Cancale as a food editor, freelance writer, and now cooking instructor. My past gigs include (in no particular order): pastry chef, caterer, internet startup minion, home and decorating expert, astrology writer, English teacher, technical translator, summer camp cook, theater instructor, Hamburglar (when I was 16 and working at McDonald’s), vegan baker, gluten-free guru, and personal assistant to a well-known French actor. I’ve also waited tables and worked for temporary agencies in between times.
The one constant in my life throughout these job changes has been cooking. Even when I was babysitting in college (oops, forgot to put that on the list), I was finding ways to bake cookies or pop popcorn with my little wards.
I feel very lucky that I get to do what makes me happy in a place that makes me happy. And for those times when I’m not in Cancale, my life in my adopted home pervades everything I do–and cook. Otherwise…the top five things to know about me are:
I’ve got a killer kitchen.
My Cancale kitchen is a big, bright room at the front of a stone fisherman’s house on the Cancale harbor. It’s a cluttered, colorful space with a view of the water and everything anyone could ever need to cook, eat, drink, or just hang out for hours.
I’m a pastry chef, a veg/vegan expert, + a wannabe food scholar.
My pastry career has taken me from a cooking school in France (where I learned to make my first piecrusts), to the New York restaurant scene (where I worked with top French chefs), then back to France with a cookbook (in French) on Brittany desserts. I spent 12 years as the food editor of a US vegetarian magazine, where I learned to prepare and appreciate all things veg, even though I am not a vegetarian myself. I make jams and preserved foods (like my own pickles and sauerkraut) for fun. And my greatest personal accomplishment these past few years has been writing and presenting papers for The Oxford Food Symposium.
I love the water.
The wind, the tides, the sunrises, the sunsets, the boats, the sea creatures (both edible and otherwise), the beaches, the cliffs, and the mud flats. Especially the mud flats since I can forage for samphire and seaweed, plus hunt for clams there. I grew up spending weekends on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, so I’ve got salt water in my soul. (And in my bloodstream after a bad boating accident when I first arrived in Cancale.)
My French isn’t perfect (but it’s pretty darned good).
I may have studied French in college, but I REALLY started learning the language when I moved to France permanently. And while I still have an accent, I can also correctly use the subjunctive and fire off French expletives like a Cancalais fisherman when necessary.
I have no patience for food snobs.
You know the type. The this-is-better-than-that proclaimers, the condescending dismissers, the slavish followers of food trends…I could go on and on. I believe food and cooking should be inclusive, not exclusive. Everyone has a palate. Anyone can learn to cook (and cook well). I work really hard to make my recipes and classes accessible and enjoyable, because that’s what food and cooking are all about: Enjoyment.