The faint clinks of pots and pans echo in the background as we speak, Helene Dujardin is washing dishes–but it’s only the sounds that give her away–she is sharply focused. “I am always multi-tasking,” she says with a laugh. And she has no other choice, because this passionate French woman from the rolling hills of Aix-en-Provence has a whirlwind life. Aside from posting on her stunning blog Tartelette, Helene is an author, professional photographer, traveling pastry workshop leader, dedicated wife and full-time food lover.
“I knew how to make a tart before I could talk,” she says light-heartily, “I never went to school for food, I learned from my grandmother who taught me to make homemade crème brulee and tarte tartin.” But once she landed a job as a pastry chef at her friend’s restaurant in Charleston South Carolina, Helen wanted to know pastry inside out. So she bought The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg and started experimenting in her home. She recalls, “I remember the night I learned spun sugar, I did it over my kitchen sink and it got everywhere. My husband came home and exclaimed ‘what happened! Why is there sugar all over the place?’ The whole house smelled like sugar but I needed to learn.”
She stayed at her pastry post for six years. But then, the always moving Helene was ready for something new–thus Tartelette was born. “I started the blog to keep myself accountable with pastry. I had a blank canvas where I could write like I do in a diary but allow people respond.” Today, this community aspect is what continually drives her (and others) to get behind the computer. “I can post on my Grandmother’s apricot tart and within a few minutes I’ll have five messages in my inbox of people telling stories of their Grandmother’s tarts. Food and storytelling go together”
Aside from her writing, her lovely photography became one of the key draws to Tartelette. She says, “With one picture you can tell the story of a dish through styling, composition, light and color.” She even wrote a book about food photography entitled Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling.
In our book, Helene is a food superstar–because she handles each of her many gifts impeccably well and with unbridled passion. But at the end of the day, it is the love of food that brings all of her talents together: “Being able to cook food, talk about food and shoot food is what gets me completely happy…It’s about cooking from the heart.”
–By Emily Arno