COOKING IN PROVENCE

For several weeks each year my husband and I open our 18th century Provençal farmhouse to a limited number of students for personalized cooking classes. Our goal is not to teach just recipes or technique, but to help our students master cuisine in a more profound way. Watching us, following our tips and recommendations, benefiting from my many years of study with France’s best chefs, students tell us they gain a fluency and ease in the kitchen they’ve never had before. They also leave, many of them, telling us that it has been one of the best weeks of their lives.

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COOKING IN PARIS

For a few weeks a year I offer a select series of cooking classes in my Paris cooking studio, located on the charming Rue Jacob in the heart of Saint-Germain des Près on the Left Bank. The carefully restored artist’s atelier is designed for cooking and appreciation of the gastronomic bounty of Paris. This five-day movable feast in a comfortable, English-language environment, is designed to bring students into my private Parisian food world.

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BLACK TRUFFLE WORKSHOP

As an additional mid-winter event, my husband Walter and I offer a special Black Truffle Workshop, a unique hands-on week of classes devoted to the wonders of the fresh black truffle - the rarest and most exotic ingredient in French cuisine.

 

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A PERSONAL FAVORITE AT THE FRIDAY LUNCH as we wrap up each week’s class – whether we’re in Paris or Provence --  is how our students respond when I ask,

“What’s your best takeaway? How will you change the way you live, the way you cook once you are home? What is your game changer?”

It may be my simple method for cooking garlic without burning it, inspired by Joël Robuchon many years ago. Or my “new” trick for slicing onions. Students always part with newfound knowledge of knife care after Walter’s knife-sharpening class. And in Paris and Provence students are constantly surprised (and pleased) by the variety and simplicity of my repertoire of fruit and herb sorbets, while everyone’s wine knowledge soars as the week goes on. Many students remark that after their time with us, they will trust themselves more in the kitchen, be more thoughtful about planning the whole meal, and make sure that mise en place (weighing and measures all ingredients for a recipe beforehand) becomes a part of their cooking religion.

At the week’s end we also vote for Best Taste of the Week and I am always delighted to see a wide variety of favorites. While lemon verbena sorbet wins hands down as the perennial favorite, votes go to everything from a humble poulet rôti (roast chicken) to a memorable Sicilian caponata prepared with eggplant fresh from the potager (vegetable garden); steamed turbot bathed in a garden-fresh sauce that blends the forward, haunting flavors of lemongrass and ground kaffir lime leaves; our spicy fennel and pork sausage for homemade pizzas; a simple yet explosive chestnut honey sorbet; or a new favorite, the onion, anchovy and black olive pissaladière.

But more often than not, the answer reflects the personal relationships that develop and evolve during the week. We bond with new friends, as the bonds with long-time friends grow tighter.

Generosity, conviviality and lifestyle are the qualities we try to demonstrate as much as knife techniques or the essentials of searing. An open sharing is at the basis of French joie de vivre.  It is also the aspect that matters most to me about the celebrated French art de vivre. We hope you’ll come, but even more, if you do come, we want you to be among the many who leave saying “This has been the best week of my life.” Nothing makes me happier.