This winter, while somehow managing to finagle our first trip to Paris in far too long, we made 2 appointments for cooking classes at L'Atelier des Chefs (my partner's long-held desire and last summer's birthday gift).
L'Atelier des Chefs cooking school (http://www.atelierdeschefs.com/) has five different locations in Paris (as well as several other cities in France--Bordeaux, Dijon, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, and also including Brussels, London and Dubai).
Just before Christmas we arrived for our first class at the Printemps Nation location (inside the illustrious Printemps department store at 21, cours de Vincennes, <4th>, Paris, 75020. Telephone: 01.53.30.05.82. Metro lines: 1,2,6,9; Porte de Vincennes).
Our chef and instructor, Steve Hanot, greeted us warmly and after our first instruction (everyone must wash hands!) offered us our very own plastic aprons and we were off! The menu for that day was large but not terribly complicated (thank goodness); Soup of oranges, clementines and mangos with a chestnut crumble; Cassoulet of escargot with Sauterne and a garlic and parsley crumble; Foie gras wrapped in chicken with a nut and parmesan crumble. A three-crumble menu!
The cooking classroom at Printemps is set up with one large table where everyone is assigned their own cutting board. The chef describes the process for each of the recipes, passes out knives (rather dull we noticed, most likely saving on litigation) and various ingredients and gets everyone involved. Besides showing students each step of the recipes, his job is to keep an eye on making sure things are done correctly and safely but with some fun-- keeping it all done in a timely fashion to stay on schedule. And he does it perfectly.
While the classes are conducted in French, we happen to have our very own personal translator: my sister. But while our translator (also known as an overworked, overstressed, single, working mom- at the time still trying to get ready for Christmas!) can't always hear and translate every word, we follow along with the "Universal Hand/Sign Language": Sawing motion means "cut", clipping motion means "use scissors", rolling motion means...well, you get the idea. When someone hands you several sprigs of parsley or a mango and you look around to find that the person directly across the table from you is chopping their sprigs into fine pieces and tossing them in the bowl or using various techniques for peeling, you miraculously know just what to do!
After the ingredients have all been chopped, diced and assembled, the class moves to the stove area to stir, sprinkle and behold the magic of alchemy.
Our friends who joined us (and had been to these classes before so knew how things worked), while being fellow adorers of Paris, had their very first experience with escargot. It was a hit. (How can anything with Sauterne not be a hit!?) They only found themselves sorry they had waited so long to try them.
The Printemps classroom has only enough space for working, not for eating the joyous end results. So when class is finished, all dishes are wrapped and sent 'a emporter'--to take out and enjoy at your own chosen location.
I wouldn't say I am necessarily a better cook for having had these classes (talented partner still far outshines me in the kitchen . Can I blame the lack of language skills? Unfortunately, not in the US) but a fun time was definitely had by all!
FYI~ L'Atelier des Chefs will email you each of your lesson's recipes at your request and graciously shares recipes on their website. Go see for yourself!
Stay tuned for the second L'Atelier des Chefs class in a future post.
Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen