A SELF-PROCLAIMED KITCHEN GYPSY (also the title of her newest cookbook), Joanne Weir has traveled and eaten around the world but resides in the Bay Area, where she shares her culinary notes in her cooking classes, award-winning cookbooks and television shows. And just in case that doesn’t keep her busy enough, Weir also owns the award-winning Mexican restaurant Copita Tequileria y Comida in Sausalito with partner Larry Mindel. We caught up with Weir at home in Pacific Heights between travels (she was packing for Marrakech the last time we checked), where she was, well, cooking, of course.
Who designed your kitchen? I designed it with the help of an architect friend, Chuck Thompson.
What changes did you make or challenges did you face when when you designed/renovated your kitchen? The house was built in 1890 and originally [the space included] three rooms, a kitchen, dining room and bedroom. We removed walls and made three rooms into one big open plan kitchen, living and dining room. I also had a fireplace and wanted to make it viable for cooking and spit-roasting. I brought in a Greek journeyman who specialized in fireplaces and he worked with me to make a functioning fireplace suitable for cooking. Jefferson Mack was brought in to design the ironwork.
What inspired your kitchen design? My kitchen was inspired by my travels. I collect as I go. I’ve carried back fabric from Italy, lights from Morocco and plates from Spain, Provence, Italy, Greece and Portugal.
What is your favorite aspect of your kitchen? I love that it’s open, inviting and warm. My kitchen is where everyone gathers. There is a lot of work space, which is perfect for the weekend classes that I do. After we all cook together, then we gather around the big table and share a meal. I love that.
If you could add or change one thing in your kitchen, what would it be? I would love more storage space but that’s not going to happen. I have to be choosy as to what I bring into the kitchen. Every tool, every pan has a purpose.
What role does the kitchen play in the context of your home life? I love to entertain and my kitchen is perfect for that. It truly is a gathering place for friends and family. We always seem to gather around the larger island for a glass of wine or a bite to eat. I also use it for my weekend cooking classes. I have enough space for eight to 10 people to cook plus two ovens and six burners.
How many cooks in the kitchen? I do all of the cooking for my husband and myself. Joe says that when he met me, he stopped cooking. He’s a great dishwasher.
Is there a favorite utensil or special appliance you can’t live without? I love my Vitamix for smoothies, pureed soups and instant sorbet. It’s the best.
Gas or induction? Gas — for me there’s no other way. One of the most common questions I am asked in interviews is what is my favorite range. Wolf is my answer. It’s the best commercial/ residential range.
Your favorite way to host a dinner party/entertain guests? I love to have friends for a drink first around the island and then a sit-down dinner with at least three courses.
Whom would you like to have as a dinner guest or cook with? Yotam Ottolenghi (a British chef, cookbook writer and restaurateur).
Favorite meals to prepare at home? Either a seasonal soup or salad to start, a leg of lamb that I spit-roast in the fireplace, and oftentimes I make a fresh fruit sorbet for dessert.
You have traveled to almost every continent. Do you have a favorite country and cuisine? I rent villas and conduct week-long culinary excursions to France, Italy, Spain, Morocco and Greece. I gravitate to the Mediterranean and love anything that has to do with olive oil and wine. These countries feed my soul.
What three ingredients can be found in your refrigerator at all times? Wine, amontillado sherry and a good bottle of champagne. A girl has to be prepared.
Lynda Balslev is an award-winning food writer, editor and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area. She authors the nationally syndicated column and blog TasteFood, and co-authored the cookbook Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture (2015 Silver Medal Winner Independent Publisher Awards). She is the 2011 recipient of the Chronicle Books Award (Recipe Writing) to the Symposium for Professional Food Writers, and a 2018 Fellowship Award recipient to the Symposium for Wine Writers at Meadowood, Napa Valley. Lynda’s writing and photography have been recognized by the New York Times Diners Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post and more.