TO WATCH Juliette Binoche cook is a pleasure, for a simple reason: She understands and enjoys food. “I have cooked all my life,” said the Oscar-winning French actress. Her latest film, “The Taste of Things,” directed by Tran Anh Hung , hits theaters across the U.S. this week. A love story set in 1889, it is also an ode to classical French cooking: flaming desserts, golden vol-au-vents, delicate poached fish cloaked in cream sauce, long-simmering broths in tall copper pots. The celebrated chef Pierre Gagnaire served as culinary director.

While Binoche doesn’t make lavish 19th-century feasts off screen, she regularly cooks for family and friends in the kitchen of her Paris home. “I do it for health and taste,” she said. Like Eugénie, her character in “The Taste of Things,” she is serious about ingredients and mad about fresh produce and restorative broths. “I cook in the same way I would paint,” she said. “It’s about the intention you’re putting into the ingredients to transform this matter into something else. I like the process.”

When on a shoot for a week or more, Binoche tries to stay in a place with a kitchen so she can cook properly. Without fail, she finds the closest farmers market. Catching up with her recently, it was as much fun to hear her talk about cooking as it is to watch her do it on screen.

The thing most people notice first about my kitchen is : the wood. The drawers are made of nice wood, so it is warm. It’s not huge. The other thing, I think, is my striped countertops. I got the idea from a restaurant in Paris. We called for the designer’s name after we ate there.

A feature I knew I wanted in my kitchen is : the sink in front of the window. So when you’re doing dishes, you’re looking outside. I’ve put things where they are most convenient, so it’s practical and organized. I have a wooden block, in the middle of my kitchen, where I peel all my veggies.

My kitchen’s worst feature is : its size, I sometimes feel. For me it’s perfect, but when I entertain it can feel a little small. For many years I lived outside Paris and had a big kitchen. Now I’m back in Paris and my kitchen is the average size.

My pantry is always stocked with : all the oils—argan, chamomile, sesame, olive, walnut, chestnut. I like changing oils. And I always have four or five vinegars. Sea salt, always natural. And I have a very special soy sauce that my friend Amy brings when she comes to Paris from Japan. I keep it as a treasure. It’s made in a factory that is 200 years old. They still use the ancient recipe and age it in old wood barrels. It tastes incredible on steamed fish or veggies or pasta, just a few drops.

My refrigerator is typically stocked with : eggs. A nice butter—I like a fresh farm butter. I also have goat’s milk yogurt. (I don’t like cow’s milk.) Sometimes I have a nice soft goat’s cheese, and I prefer it soft (not aged). Lots of vegetables and herbs. I do not buy out of season or something that has traveled far—that’s absurd.

The kitchen tool I can’t live without is : a good pan. I love a copper pan, I have to say. It heats fast, you have it from the beginning of your life until the end, and your children can inherit it. Also, a good knife—nice quality so you can peel fast and well.

At this time of year, my favorite way to eat is : soups, broths and good bread—only whole-grain—with a little butter. Butter is actually good for the skin! But spring is amazing: the first carrot, the first turnip. It comes like fireworks of different flavors. If people eat things at whatever time they want, they don’t know the pleasure of tasting things as they come into season. For Valentine’s Day I want chocolate, of course. Are you kidding?

On weekends I cook : for my mother. I try to cook something she will like. So, it’s a little feast. And I have family and friends over. My mother likes sugar lately, and I have to make something yummy or she’ll eat too many sweets.

The recipes I turn to again and again are : collected in binders. I’ve been adding to them for 25 years. There’s a chocolate cake recipe from my cousin that I really love, and a spinach salad. A tajine. My mother’s sauce with capers and cream that we serve with hen, over rice. My assistant has wonderful recipes as well. She’s a very good cook.

When I entertain, I like to : change it often, or it gets boring. But the easiest is a pot au feu, a dish that makes everyone satisfied. And I do an apple galette and a nice platter of cheese at the end. The luxury is the quality of the ingredients.

A drink I love is : red wine, good-quality red wine. And I’m a little pro-French for wine, I must confess. Because I think there’s nothing that compares to it. In Bourgogne, it’s flowery and there’s lightness. In Bordeaux, you want something to open your heart.

My favorite food memories are : the dishes I made with my children. Every Wednesday we would do crepes. It was a way to interest them in cooking. My son and daughter would get competitive. There’s a simple recipe I would make for them, a chicken in the oven with roast potatoes and green beans. I stuff the chicken with an apple and lemon, and rub the outside with a split head of garlic. Add a little oil and salt. And you can add tarragon—oof, chicken with tarragon is the best.

A food I am particular about is : omelets. My son used to like hard ones, and now he makes them soft and perfect. With omelets, you really have to beat the eggs. Really, it must froth. And you can add a little water. Some people add cream but I think it’s too heavy. On “The Taste of Things” I learned to move the pan so the omelet folds onto itself. We had to shoot that scene something like 50 times. I have probably forgotten how to do it now.

—Edited from an interview by Kitty Greenwald