I’m talking about one of the biggest highlights of the Paris trip for me. For someone who has lovingly regarded French cuisine from afar with awestruck eyes, being in Paris meant three things: Eating, Cooking and Shopping for food and kitchen equipment. While Eating and Shopping could easily be taken care of one day at a time, Cooking required a bit of pre-planning. Kitchen equipped accommodation? Check. Registration for a course at one of Paris’ big culinary schools? Ah.
I trawled through the options that I read about online, and before I dive into the one I picked, here’s a look at what I found:
- Lenotre: Located on the ultra chic Champs Elysees, there’s a course for everyone from 40-400€
- Ritz- Escoffier: Uber fancy and uber expensive. Oh, and you need to book way in advance.
- La Cuisine: Probably the only place that offers classes in English, and the most affordable.
(I left out options like truffle hunting and grape crushing because you can’t really do those in the city.)
But I chose, Le Cordon Bleu, primarily because of the brand name I’d been hearing all these years. Any chef worth his salt in India, trained at the Cordon Bleu. I’d dreamed of walking through those doors, and now I could make it a possibility. I carefully consulted their Gourmet courses, comparing it with our itinerary, and found one that was perfect, “Cooking for Friends” on the day that Charlie could go off and visit dead Parisians. There are two options while registering, the demonstration and the demonstration plus workshop. I picked the latter. The chance to step inside a professional kitchen, under the guidance of a real chef. Wow.
I paid for my course in full over a month in advance via credit card, because seats do fill up quickly. I received a confirmation and a reminder about the class over email. And finally the day arrived. After a couple of train changes, I arrived at 8:30 am on a lonely street in the 15th Arrondissement. I was ushered in along with others who were arriving to the 1st floor cramped cafeteria where we were left to ponder our kits comprising an apron, dishcloth and printed copies of the recipes over a breakfast of coffee and croissants.
The class began on the dot at 9 am. Chef Patrick, assisted by his sous chef and translator, quickly took us through the three courses of the day, jumping from one dish to another, and back again, as and when required, fielding questions and tossing jokes. I learnt an awful lot, and it was a test in multi-tasking as I tried to watch and concentrate, while furiously scribbling down notes. By 12, the demonstration was over and it was time to taste. I savored every bite, appreciating all the flavor and technique that went into the dishes.
A quick break followed, during which most of us hung around the crowded little souvenir store (I didn’t buy anything, as I’d been advised that most of the limited range was available at a better quality and price at J Detou, which I later discovered was true).
Then we went on to the kitchens (where only the 20 of us who’d registered for the workshop as well stayed on), where we each had our own stove behind us, and shared one large island counter in the middle of the room. Chef Patrick watched over us, as we proceeded to put all that we’d learned to practice.
A team of assistants kept walking around, cleaning up, distributing ingredients and equipment as required, and also helping me save my venison from burning! Chef Patrick seemed to be enjoying himself as well, as he kept trying to add more and more mini lessons while we waited for the meat to cook. The mood was very light and jovial in a room full of people who clearly enjoyed cooking. We all went home beaming, carrying our steaming creations neatly packed in little bags, our freshly printed certificates in folders, and the experience of a lifetime in our hearts.
My review on the class
Was it tough? Very. (But probably because of a combination of unfamiliar ingredients, unfamiliar techniques, and inexperience; one doesn’t usually stew venison or work with risotto, foie gras or juniper berries in India)
Was it fun? Extremely.
Would I do it again? In the blink of an eye.
Was it expensive? Yes.
Worth the money? Absolutely.
Oh, and what of the dish I cooked? Ask Charlie. He devoured it.