Q&A With Mary Risley of Tante Marie's, Part 2: About That YouTube Video

Categories: Behind the Menu

Mary_Risley_portrait3_Hale.jpg
Alanna Hale
Mary Risley of Tante Marie's Cooking School.
​Mary Risley moved to San Francisco with the hippies, and founded Tante Marie's Cooking School in 1979, still educating amateurs and soon-to-be professionals, and still located in the same space she's been renting for 32 years. These days, Risley might be better known these days as the loveably affable cook from the hilarious "Just Put the F*cking Turkey in the Oven" video. In part one of this interview, which ran yesterday, Risley talked to SFoodie about the start of her cooking career and how culinary fashions still depend on the basics Tante Marie still teaches. In part three, which will run tomorrow, Risley will share a favorite recipe.

SFoodie: What inspired your YouTube video?

Risley: You've seen the turkey on the cover of Bon Appetit every November for 40 years. There's a turkey hotline, and people are in a panic, and ... I just thought it'd be fun. I called my friend the week before and we put it together in a few days.

Did you have any inkling that it would go as viral as it did?

No way! It was hilarious, just watching the numbers go up around Thanksgiving. I'm still getting subscribers -- it's up to 300,000 views! It's really true that turkey doesn't need a lot of care: You just stick it in the oven and go for a walk. But the number of people who stopped me in the street and said, "Well my turkey is good, I do it this way..." Man, it was just a joke! I would love to do it again, but I can't think of another thing that is as universal as turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. I don't know what to make fun of next!

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Alanna Hale
Jim Dodge's brioche bread pudding, from Tante Marie's.
Why do you think people still want to come into Tante Marie's to learn when there is so much information out there on the Web and on television?

If you come here and take a class, you'll be with 14 other people, all cooking together, drinking wine, and having a really good, shared experience. It's got to be a lot more fun than watching Mario Batali.

Are you still teaching classes?

No, I'm only teaching on YouTube or for private classes where people ask for me. I drink a bottle of wine every cooking class, so it's better if the class in my house! I have a nice big kitchen. But I am getting a little tired of people coming over and asking, "What kind of pans should I buy? What kind of pots? Knives?" Just buy any fucking pot you want. Oh! That's a great idea for the next video: just buy any fucking pots you want!

Alanna Hale is a writer and photographer whose work can be found at alannahale.com.
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