Madeleine Marguerite Pin was born on Nov. 22, 1930, in Courbevoie, France, a few miles northwest of France. Her father, Charles, worked in a shop that created optical instruments, and her mother, Simone (Labarrière) Pin, worked in a bicycle factory. The women in her family cooked well, in particular a great-aunt, who owned a Michelin-starred restaurant in Touraine, in the Loire Valley, where young Madeleine worked in the summers.
Madeleine Pin attended the Sorbonne and studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. But when she met her American future husband, Alan Kamman, a civil engineer, she had not started a cooking career. Rather, she was a reservations manager in Paris for Swissair.
She and Mr. Kamman married in 1960 and moved to the Philadelphia area, which proved to be a difficult adjustment.
“I went into transcultural shock, not being able to speak my native tongue, eat my food, see my architecture, listen to my music,” she told The Times in 1968. “I was so lonely, I started to cook in my kitchen. Then I realized I really knew how to cook.”
Ms. Kamman approached her work seriously — her techniques were painstaking, her recipes meticulously written — and with a confidence so great that it could sound like arrogance. One day in 1980, as she was close to uprooting herself from Newton Centre for a short sojourn teaching cooking in Annecy, France, she reflected on her skills.
“My food is as good as any three-star restaurant in France, and you can quote me,” she told The Boston Globe.
She could intimidate students, nearly all of them professional chefs, with her short temper and intolerance for mediocrity.