The Toy of Cooking: Yorkies, Yummies, and the Double Life of Ann Seranne

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”: She was really two people, and which one you knew best depended on your perspective.

If you spent most of the 1950s through ’70s at dog shows, Ann Seranne was the “an” in “Barban,” the influential line of Yorkshire Terriers responsible for 62 champions, including six multi-BIS winners.

But if you spent those years pursuing excellence of a more domestic kind, you knew Seranne as one of America’s most trusted foodies, author of two dozen bestselling cookbooks and editor of the still-popular Junior League series.

Seranne was a Canadian by birth, a food chemist by profession, and a New Yorker by inclination. She came to the city after World War II and found work at Gourmet magazine. Typical of her can-do attitude, she advanced from receptionist to executive editor in just two years.

She left Gourmet to co-found the food-consulting firm Seranne & Gaden, whose heavyweight client list included NBC, Reader’s Digest, and the Waring blender company.

At Seranne & Gaden she began compiling The Blender Cookbook, The Art of Egg Cookery, The Sandwich Book, Delectable Desserts, and other volumes that established her as the city’s queen of cookery. She was friend and mentor to superstar chefs who emerged in the postwar boom, Paul Prudhomme and Jacques Pépin among them.

The talent of her new-wave protégés awed Seranne, and the respect was mutual. “Ann Serrane is a brilliantly good cook,” said James Beard, whose career she boosted. Even the ultimate arbiter of all things tasty, New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne, was moved to exclaim that Seranne “made the best pies in the world!”

In her other life, Seranne and partner Barbara Wolferman maintained Mayfair Yorkie House, in New Jersey. At its height, the facility housed 50 Yorkies —including 1962 Westminster BOB Ch. Topsy of Tolestar (the photo shows Seranne, left, holding Topsy)—and such standard Poodles as 15-time BIS Ch. Alekai Luau. The kennel was outfitted with a gourmet kitchen, so Seranne could indulge both her passions at once.

Not long before Seranne’s death in 1988 at age 75, her friend Walter Fletcher asked if there was a connection between cooking and dog breeding.

“Yes,” Seranne told the dean of dog writers. “Both contain equal parts science, art, and luck.” —Bud Boccone

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