A Stunning Soufflé Is an Act of Love

You can go your whole life without having a single experience with something, and then quite suddenly, it is everywhere in your world.

This was how soufflé found me.

I didn’t run in soufflé circles. Growing up, my family ate cornbread crumbled in buttermilk for dessert — or my grandmother’s flour tortillas hot off her comal with butter, salt and honey. To be honest, I thought, why all the buzz for soufflé? It’s a debutante dish, flouncy and pretty, with a great presentation, sure. But it seemed all crinoline to me. Not a lot of substance.

Recipe: Vanilla Citrus Soufflés

But eventually, soufflé walked into my life very properly, as one might imagine. The first to make a meteor-size impact on me came by way of Jacqueline Margulis, the 87-year-old chef and owner of Cafe Jacqueline in San Francisco, which serves only soufflé as main and dessert.

Opening in 1979, Cafe Jacqueline has been a steady fixture in North Beach. Margulis’s setup is small and thrillingly organized: each step accounted for, every twist leading into another turn, each utensil with a place to land when it is not in use. When you see that a chef has established choreography in her kitchen, maybe do a little private curtsy, because by my estimation, you’ve found yourself in the presence of royalty.

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