Monday, February 6, 2012

When in Paris…take some cooking classes!

I cooked and cooked and cooked...I like to take my work everywhere I go.

During my recent stay in Paris I spent my time cooking, cooking, cooking. Within a week I took 5 classes at 4 locations, some in English, some in French. This was such a fun way to experience the city and a great way to brush up on my skills and learn a few new tricks. While my formal training is based on French cooking, my daily pattern trends toward variations on Indian, Thai and other cuisines that lie to the East of Pittsburgh. There was also an impression floating around my house that French cuisine was too fiddly, too complicated, perhaps too pretentious. While in Paris, we were reminded otherwise.

First, one of the major differences that I have noticed over the years between the French and Americans is the French appreciation for “les métiers”. This is a deep-rooted cultural value for the skills that people have and the desire to support, rather than compete with, those skills. For example, you will be hard pressed to find a Parisian who makes their own baguettes. Why would they? There are boulangeries all over the place, the bread is excellent and it is reasonably priced. The same is true in many ways for everyday cooking.

Yes, French cuisine is fiddly and much of it takes time (although one of the courses I took was a ½ hour lunch, see below!). This is why there is such a great restaurant/café/brasserie culture. Chefs and cooks and the assorted restaurant personnel are highly respected in their work. They have the skills, the equipment and the passion to do what they do well and so many French spend their time eating in restaurants rather than cooking for themselves (home kitchens in Paris are notoriously small).

While fast food exists, French food culture really revolves around appreciation for the time and effort required to produce great meals and the everyday Parisian uses their pocket to support this notion. For example, on a day I was running late I grabbed a coffee to go to take with me on the Metro. I felt conspicuously American, running around with this sloshing hot beverage. I won’t say it doesn’t exist, but during my time there the only food I saw people walking around with was the occasional baguette sandwich or crepe from sidewalk vendors. Nothing else, certainly not coffee, a beverage obviously better enjoyed while seated at a café.

Anyway, I had a great time taking classes. If you are planning a trip to Paris, here’s a bit of what I did…

Cook ‘n With Class (I made macarons with Briany, classes are in English, click here for related blog post)

Our macarons were just as pretty and probably more tasty than any others I tried...
(from their website)
Do you wish to learn the art of French cooking in a fun, relaxed atmosphere? Cook’n With Class invites you to our homely kitchens in magical Montmartre, Paris where you can choose from a wide range of hands-on cooking classes taught in English. Learn how to make macarons, the famous French baguette, croissants, superb pastries and desserts and more. You can meet the Chef at the market, prepare a 4-course meal with fresh produce and enjoy the meal in a French manner. Come and discover French culture through a hands-on cooking class and learn recipes we guarantee you can recreate at home. Cooking classes for individuals and small groups. We look forward to cooking with you!

L’atelier des Chefs (I took a mini-lunch class and two master classes, these are in French)

A sampling of some of the courses I cooked...and ate!
(translated from their website)
A whole generation has not learned to cook. Never mind, L'atelier des Chefs, the new generation of cooking classes at all wants to rediscover the pleasure of cooking. Our courses are open to all! The choice among all our formulas is very broad and there to suit all budgets and all levels. Our certainty is that everyday cooking should be simple and yet dramatic. It should be fun for yourself and share. Johann Sebastian Bompoil, former deputy chief of the Hotel Ritz in Paris and his team of 30 professional chefs from leading houses are willing to share with you their expertise and their passion in exceptional spaces.

**ALERT** L'atelier is coming to NY, they are in negotiations for space now!

La Cuisine Paris (I took a bread baking class, they offer courses in French and English)

The lovely kitchen looks out over the Seine
(from their website)
Here at La Cuisine Paris we love to surround ourselves with everything tasty here in Paris.....from hands on Cooking Classes to getting out and about and exploring the food scene through our Foodie Walks. When we began to create the La Cuisine Paris programme of English speaking cooking classes, we kept very close at heart the spirit of gourmet events for those that are not only curious, but also ‘epicurious’ and love a grand palate of experiences. From beginning to end, for those more experienced, to those that want to ‘dip’ there toe in, the French cooking classes at La Cuisine Paris have something to offer all. We created our cooking classes in Paris to be a complement to your schedule, ranging between 2 and 4 hours, they are long enough for you to enjoy time with us and short enough for you to accommodate other fun engagements in Paris! We update our calendar of cooking classes 1 1/5 months in advance.