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Cookbook Watch

April 14, 1999|RUSS PARSONS

When Amanda Hesser was little more than a sprout, she went to cook for Anne Willan at her Burgundian chateau-cooking school La Varenne. During her time there, she fell under the spell of M. Milbert, the chateau's crusty old gardener. After a year of somewhat rocky approaches, she was lucky enough that he would allow her to follow him around as he worked. No doubt he had little idea what a smart choice he had made for his Boswell.

Hesser is a terrific writer and cook, as evidenced by her new book "The Cook and the Gardener" (W.W. Norton, $32.50). In addition, she has also become in a very short time a rather considerable personage in the food world as a staff writer for the New York Times.

Back then, of course, she was none of that. She was merely a neophyte, but one who had the sense to keep her mouth closed and her eyes open at the right times. In this book she brings that year back in text that is graceful and natural and in recipes that sound delicious without being forced.

Now it seems that M. Milbert was the lucky one.

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