Cooking schools in France
Love French food but can’t recreate it at home? Book yourself into a cookery school and learn how to create a Gallic feast with our selection of courses...
COOK IN FRANCE BEST FOR: something a bit different Run by British chef Jim Fisher, a former BBC Masterchef finalist who has since worked with Rick Stein and Alistair Little, this English-language cookery school in the heart of the Dordogne ticks all the boxes when it comes to classic French cuisine – but then goes a step further with some rather more unusual and innovative offerings. Guests attending any one of the classic courses, ranging from one to five days in length, are invited to cook a choice of traditional French dishes as well as partaking in visits to local fresh produce markets. Those who prefer something a little more quirky can try the school’s Famous last suppers’ course, where participants can prepare anything from Julia Child’s last wish menu through to the Titanic’s final banquet. There’s also a cookery and painting course available for those with an artistic bent. As an added bonus the school employs its very own dedicated washer-upper’, which means more time in the kitchen for you (and more time at the dining room table afterwards). Prices start from €130. Tel: (Fr) 5 53 30 24 05 www.cookinfrance.com
BEST FOR: classic traditional French dishes
If you want to learn how to cook like a native, you can’t go far wrong with a stint at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Founded in 1895, the school’s prestigious standing is synonymous with the great and the good of gastronomy. It has even been immortalised in literature by the grande dame of French cooking Julia Child and on-screen by Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 Billy Wilder film Sabrina. Although purists will no doubt be drawn to the school’s renowned Grand Dipl�me – a seven-month qualification combining the Dipl�me de Cuisine and the Dipl�me de P�tisserie – the €39,100 price tag isn’t for everyone. Rest assured, however, that shorter courses are available either as visual demonstrations or hands-on workshops. Ranging in length from two hours to four days, the classes take place in the school kitchens under the tutelage of the master chefs and include anything from food and wine pairing through to regional speciality sessions. Unless otherwise specified, all demonstrations are given in French and then translated into English. Prices start from €41.
Tel: (Fr) 1 53 68 22 50
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BEST FOR: insider industry secrets
Patricia Wells is a staunch authority on French food; in addition to a 27-year stint as restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune in Paris, she is also the only American – and the only woman – to work as a food writer for the French newspaper L’Express. With several cookbooks to her name, she and her husband Walter now divide their time between English-language cookery courses in both Paris and Provence. Guests arriving for the six-day course at their 18th-century Proven�al home are greeted with a Sunday night welcome dinner around the farmhouse table, before embarking on a cooking extravaganza during the week, using local ingredients including herbs, olive oil and freshly produced cheeses. Those who opt for the five-day course in Paris will find themselves in Patricia’s cooking studio in the heart of the Left Bank. Here, classic French dishes are on the menu, alongside a walking tour of the city’s best gourmet insider addresses and trips to the local markets for fresh produce.
Prices start from €5,000.
Contact via www.patriciawells.com
LES 3 PONTS BEST FOR: brushing up on your French Set into the Loire d�partement in the gastronomic Rh�ne-Alpes region, Les 3 Ponts runs language and cooking classes entirely in French for those who want a true cuisine experience � la fran�aise. Mornings are given over to French language tuition, while the afternoons are set aside for cookery classes. Groups for both sections of the programme are kept at small sizes (the maximum capacity is six people, with the exception of seven participants for university groups). In keeping with the total language immersion experience offered by the school, all cookery lessons are taught by French native speakers in order to encourage participants to benefit from the language experience. Students looking to expand their overall repertoire can opt for the classic French cooking lessons, whereas those with a sweet tooth might like to try the chocolate-making lessons, or the pastry and baking lessons. The courses are suitable for all participants – even if you’ve never studied French before, each option is offered from beginner through to advanced level. Prices start from €1,140. Tel: (Fr) 4 77 71 53 00 www.3ponts.edu
THE GASCON COOKERY SCHOOL
BEST FOR: a home from home
Visitors to The Gascon Cookery School in deepest rural Tarn-et-Garonne are treated to the sight of Franco-British team Bernard Corbi�re and David Chance at the helm of this warm and welcoming cooking holiday. Built around the philosophy that creating French food should be enjoyable and accessible for all, the school offers both weekend and week-long hands-on courses for those wanting to learn how to prepare classic dishes from traditional Gascon cuisine, including foie gras, cassoulet and all manner of Armagnac-laden desserts. Born of a Franglais friendship following the Chance family’s move across the Channel ten years previously, the cookery school emerged as a development from their successful chambres d’h�tes business with the help of local auberge owner Bernard’s gastronomic expertise. Today all English-language cookery classes are led by Bernard, a French chef with more than 25 years’ experience, or David, a professional English cook with a passion for French cookery, either at Bernard’s Le Petit Feuillant auberge or at the cookery school’s own table d’h�te that runs alongside the everpresent chambres d’h�tes. Prices start from �480.
Tel: (Fr) 5 63 29 11 04
French cookery schools in the UK
If you can’t make the trip to France this year, why not sign up for a
course in the UK? Here’s our pick of the best French cooking courses
The Bertinet Kitchen
French chef Richard Bertinet is the king of bread and p�tisserie-making in the UK. His school in Bath offers courses from two-hour macaron workshops to five-day p�tisserie masterclasses. Prices from �35. Tel: 01225 445 531 www.thebertinetkitchen.com
This course in Bristol is made up of three 90-minute sessions and is run entirely in French by native speaker and head chef Iza Redon. Price �72 (estimated cost of ingredients per session �4.50 to �7.50). Tel: 0117 376 3495 www.lacuizine.co.uk
Leiths School of Food and Wine
Leading London institution Leiths’ Basic Bistro’ one-day course covers all you need to know about classic French dishes such as moules marini�res, boeuf bourguignon and tarte Tatin. Price �130. Tel: 0208 749 6400 www.leiths.com
The Taste of France’ course at this Lake District location offers two options; choose Demo & dine’ (�45) if you want an easy option, or the hands-on practical session (�135) to create your own menu. Tel: 01539 432 288 www.lucycooks.co.uk
Jean-Christophe Novelli Cookery School
Set in the 14th-century Hertfordshire home of Jean-Christophe Novelli, the cookery school encompasses a variety of French cuisine ranging from one-day demonstrations to two-day hands-on cooking courses. Prices from �150. Tel: 01582 453 203 www.jeanchristophenovelli.com
Raymond Blanc Cookery School
Choose from a four-day residential course or a one-day tutorial at the stunning Le Manoir Au Quat’ Saisons’ cookery school in Oxfordshire. Prices from �335. Tel: 01844 278 881 www.manoir.com
Ashburton Cookery School
Devon’s renowned cooking centre has both one-day and two-day courses specialising in French cuisine, offering students the chance to prepare dishes from coq au vin to classic p�tisserie. Prices from �149. Tel: 0843 289 5555 www.ashburtoncookeryschool.co.uk
There are few tastier ways to spend time in France than taking a cookery course, as Carole Raymond discovers in Normandy
One of my favourite ways to relax is preparing dinner, especially the chopping part, so what better way to begin a cookery course than by being shown a set of super sharp knives, and taught the correct way to handle them? We were at Jan Rodenbaugh’s elegant little ch�teau, La Conterie, in the heart of Normandy where she runs residential cookery courses, together with husband Peter. They also provide relaxing breaks in beautiful surroundings for spouses who are only interested in consuming the results of their better half’s labours in the kitchen. Jan showed us each stage in the creation of a dinner-party menu, and then let us loose in a hands-on attempt to follow her expertise. The whole day was taken up chopping, stirring, smelling, feeling, tasting and, ultimately, eating the results of our efforts. Ohio-born Jan was formerly the head chef in a London private members’ club,has worked in restaurants all over the world, and has several diplomas in food and wine. She shows you the way things have to be done in a restaurant, but she also lives in the real world and realises that normal people don’t necessarily work in that way. As a result, the atmosphere is very relaxed and fun, peppered with anecdotes from restaurant kitchens. The plan was to spend the morning preparing a range of ingredients which would later form a dessert, and to produce a main course of fish, filleted and skinned, served with a cream saffron sauce, together with pine nut and celery couscous. This made a perfectly delicious lunch, which was consumed in Jan’s lovely garden on a glorious summer day, with a glass of chilled chablis.
After lunch we spent the afternoon putting together our desserts: an elaborate peach tart. We’d previously made the classic p�te sucr�, and chilled it, ready for rolling out. Now we used this pastry to line pretty, fluted tart tins. These were baked blind, and left to cool. We then made a raspberry coulis before the fun really began. I had seen spun-sugar cages on posh desserts in restaurants. I was very keen to have a go at spinning a sugar cage myself. Apart from the strands stuck to my fingers, T-shirt, face and hair, I managed to make a reasonable looking sugar hat. The peaches, which had been poaching in a light syrup, were placed into the crisp,
golden pastry cases, with ice cream and the little sugar hats on top. Looking too pretty to eat, we managed anyway.
Jan always tailors her classes to what the clients wish to learn. In the past she has spent three days teaching a newly divorced man the absolute basics of feeding himself, while one couple wanted to spend the entire course learning how to make soup. She always discusses the exact
requirements of the clients prior to their arrival at the elegant chambres d’h�te, and organises trips to local markets and producers to sample the delights of Normandy, such as locally produced cheeses, seafood, cider, and Calvados. The courses are usually run over three
days (four nights) throughout the year, and class sizes never exceed eight people. The meals take place around a single large table in the beamed dining room, complete with crystal and candlelight for the evenings. With good company, professional kitchen equipment, lovely
food to prepare, cook and eat, and someone else to clear up afterwards, it’s an absolute delight for any foodie.
Tel: Fr (0)2 33 49 69 26
Prices from €60 to €80 for bed and breakfast for two people. Cookery school: €850 per person, including all meals, for a four-night stay, with three days’ tuition.Non-cookery school partners pay the B&B price, plus a supplement for extra meals.
Special dietary requirements catered for.