UCSD receives Jan Weimer Culinary Collection

Papers to go on display in September

By Linda Thompson


The public will have to wait until September before being able to view the entire personal library of the late Bon Appetit magazine editor Jan Weimer, which was recently donated to the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UCSD’s Geisel Library.

According to library director Lynda Corey Claassen, the cataloging process will take a few months, though a few pieces are available to see on the library’s main floor.

Weimer, who lost her 15-year battle with breast cancer in 2007, was a Cordon Bleu graduate who became a legend in the food world. Her collection includes correspondence with the popular TV chef/author Julia Child, and one of the most notable pieces is Weimer’s copy of Child’s “The Art of French Cooking.” The book’s appearance is described as “well used” and held together by rubber bands. Child introduced French cuisine to America in the early 1960s.

Claassen said the best thing about the acquisition is its “sheer volume.” It consists of 1,200 pieces, including original manuscripts, articles, collectible special dinner menus and scrapbooks.

Claassen said couldn’t place a monetary value on Weimer’s collection, but surmised that it would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if it had been bought.

Though UCSD does not offer culinary science or gastronomy classes, Claassen said the gift will support the research of many academicicians at the university, including anthropologists, food historians, cultural historians, health scientists, and those who study ethnicities and women’s issues.

At a March 10 dedication that honored Weimer’s illustrious life and contributions to American cuisine, organizers paid tribute to her culinary skills by serving food created from her recipes.

“We are thrilled to be adding Jan Weimer’s impressive personal library to our culinary collection,” said Brain E. C. Schottlaender, UCSD Audrey Geisel University librarian. It will augment the library’s other 5,000 pieces in the culinary archives.

Attendees included members of the American Institute of Wine and Food and her husband, Dr. Sanford Weimer. The attendance of AIWF members was significant because of Weimer’s ties to the organization. She was instrumental in starting the Los Angeles chapter, and its contributions are also part of the collection at the library. Julia Child, Robert Mondavi and Richard Graff launched the AIWF nonprofit organization in 1981. It now has 27 chapters across the country.

Weimer’s other accomplishments were authoring and co-authoring books. Her archive includes several books — “Mastering Hors d’oeuvres” (for Williams-Sonoma); “The San Francisco Exotic Food Guide”; “Kitchen Redos, Revamps, Remodels, and Replacements: Without Murder, Madness, Suicide or Divorce”; “Basic Skills for the Good Cook: 26 Cooking Lessons from Bon Appetit” (with Rita Leinwand); and “Home Cooking With a French Accent” (with Chef Michel Richard) — and her many original recipes.

Some of her other jobs included food editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as a menu developer consultant for Princess Cruises. She also worked as a menu developer and consultant for the National Dairy Council, Trefethen Winery and many restaurants. She was the Bon Appetit magazine editor from 1981 to 1989.

During the ceremony, Dr. Sanford Weimer reflected that friends have started the to raise funds to establish a chair in Jan Weimer’s name at Stanford Oncology.