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I arrived in Holland with my two wire-haired dachshunds in 1974 together with my Dutch husband Frank. Within a few months we had found an old farmhouse, which had been the entrance hall and foyer of the Old Mickery theatre in Loenersloot. We spent months converting this thatched farmhouse into a beautiful home, of course with an open kitchen. This is where I started giving my cooking lessons.
After the break up of my marriage in 1977, and with the help of good friends, I found a small flat in the Kerkstraat in Amsterdam and did what I could do best, teaching cooking.
Several of my former students followed me to Amsterdam and where a great support to me. I was soon asked to cook for private diner parties in their homes. Orders for wedding parties and catering for larger numbers followed this
I then met Pieter Moret, who had advertised for a cook for private parties in Waterland, a mansion house on a private estate near Ijmuiden.
What a turn around in my life, I loved it there and Pieter and I became great friends. When he decided to start an open restaurant in the premises I left, as that was not what I loved to do most. Teaching has always been my greatest love.
What should I do now, return to England with my tail between my legs, or remain in Holland. I chose the later but knowing that if I did I needed a more solid financial basis for my business.
It was time to move on and up if I where to have a self-supporting business, in a flat of 45 square meters one cannot achieve so much.
A canal house was my goal.
An apartment in Amsterdam Zuid said all my friends, my answer was “I will die there it is so somber”. I approached some estate agents whom I knew well, they where very helpful and did their utmost to find me a suitable small canal house preferably ground floor, where I could start my school, but to no avail, it was never quite what I wanted.
One of my dearest friends then and now Willemijn ten Cate suggested an advertisement in the Telegraaf.
We wrote it that night and placed it in the newspaper ads the next day. It read, “Wanted a canal house for a French cooking school with possible living quarters”
That advertisement changed my life forever.
The following day I received a telephone call from a Mr. Erik Blaisse, he informed me he had a house on the Herengracht not so far from the Kerkstraat in Amsterdam, which might be of interest to me.
After calling the three men of influence in my life, a property developer, an architect, and a real estate tycoon.
I made an appointment for the next day, half ten at the Herengracht 314
We all arrived at the house at 10.30 the next day. It was a grand 4-story canal house, called the Zandloper, formerly a silk merchants warehouse, situated in one the most affluent parts of the Herengracht near the Golden Bend. Sometimes called the Bankers canal. As we peered through the dirty windows my heart sank, we could see a huge area. The house I later found out was built in 1620 and rebuilt in 1725. The façade having a beautiful crown list, with dolphins on either side was very imposing, as where the stairs to the huge wooden front door. Like many of the houses on the canals it is a listed monumental house. We waited but there was no answer when we rang the bell.
So we departed along the Herengracht, as I looked back at the house over my shoulder, I thought Pat you are now aiming very high, I hesitated, but on returning to my tiny flat I called Mr. Blaisse to see what had gone wrong. I had of course, being British and like many foreigners in Holland, thought that half ten was ten thirty and not nine thirty. A mistake I still sometimes make.
A new date was fixed for the coming week. This time we all arrived at the same time. As I stepped in through the huge front door I immediately fell in love with the monumental hall, then gasped at the high ceilings in the front house, was delighted by spacious salon overlooking the overgrown garden and the ruin of the garden house, and I could just visualize the little sierra room opening on to the garden as my home. The view of the canal from the advocate’s old office to the canal was superb. It was all too much to take in.
My three wise men grunted and made remarks to each other and to Mr. Blaisse. It was completely in disuse, paint falling of the walls, stains from past leakages. It was a major building project. I just stood there and said nothing. I felt like doing the Viennese waltz in the salon.
I knew I wanted this place, I was always very headstrong as my parents found out when I was young, also a born optimist.
After some time we politely thanked Mr. Blaisse for his time and showing us around the house.
I pulled on all my friends arms dancing around like a maniac saying this is it, they all laughed and said yes but now to the dealing. This I left up to them.
I moved in November 1979 with my bed, two chairs, an English gate leg table and my pots and pans. All these I still have.
pic1Then thanks to the help of many especially Peter Fuyt the architect we started creating a cooking school and private restaurant called La Cuisine Francaise
I did not think then what this would mean to my life or to my parents with their only child.
Now I know.

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