Amy Finley

Amy Finley is a traveler, cook, and writer living in Southern California. As a child, she learned to cook by playing in the kitchen with her grandmother, a woman from rural Louisiana who insisted on from-scratch cooking. The second eldest of eight children, Amy took responsibility for organizing family meals early in life, supplementing the skills and recipes she learned from her grandmother with others gleaned from her harried home-economics teacher mother’s (untouched) stash of cookbooks. After earning a degree in Political Science from UCLA, Amy worked as a science and technology policy analyst for the university and as a science writer for a high-performance computing facility at the University of California, San Diego. A move to Sun Valley, Idaho, in the late 1990s engendered a career change as she became the assistant editor of Appellation Wine Country Living and Sun Valley Magazine. Working with acclaimed chefs and food writers like Patricia Wells and Alec Lobrano, Amy recognized her own ambitions in food and publishing. In 2000, after meeting her French-American husband, Greg, she moved to Paris and enrolled at Grégoire-Ferrandi’s École Supérieure de Cuisine Française, training in classical French cooking and pastry, with side classes in bread baking and the art of charcuterie. During school, Amy developed a profound love for and respect of French regional dishes, traveling with her classmates through the regions around Lyon and Bordeaux, meeting purveyors and tasting native dishes in their natural environments. Over the next several years she divided her time between San Diego and Europe, raising a family, working as a pastry chef with trendsetters Rose and Jean-Charles Carrarini (and new Paris food darlings Alice Quillet and Anna Trattles, now of Le Bal) at Rose Bakery in Paris’s 9th arrondissement, and making an initial foray into publishing, authoring a guidebook on the Italian Riviera, including its rich culture of gastronomy. In 2007, Amy was named the winner of the third season of The Next Food Network Star, the hit reality program of the Food Network. Her show The Gourmet Next Door premiered to strong ratings later that year and was picked up for additional episodes, but citing the family pressures that became the basis for her 2011 memoir, How to Eat a Small Country: A Family’s Pursuit of Happiness One Meal at a Time, Amy declined and instead moved her family to a farm in rural Burgundy, France, returning to California in late 2008. She has been a regular contributor to Bon Appétit and her writing and recipes have appeared in Good Housekeeping, People, and numerous regional publications. An advocate for and ardent believer in the transformative power of cooking, she is currently at work on a cookbook of modern, California-inflected recipes organized around basic, indispensable cooking skills, based on her French training and tentatively titled “Fundamentally French.” She lives with her husband, two children, dog, and three chickens in San Diego, California.