Paris Cooking Schools: 6 Choices for 2011

Written by admin on July 26, 2011 – 3:25 pm -

L'atelier des chefs  photo courtesy of L'atelier des chefs

We frequently receive requests from readers requesting help in choosing a cooking class. Some want to cook and most appreciate wine. And, what’s wrong with that? Cooking classes are a great way for travelers to meet people. Even if you don’t all speak the same language, you definitely have something in common.

Some cooking classes are simply demonstrations in which a master chef prepares a dish or meal from start to finish as watching students take copious notes that will guide their future attempts to prepare the same dish. Others choose a more social experience where students and teachers informally work together to prepare a meal while learning. A given is that participants of both types of classes are encouraged to eat the fruits of their labor, often with a group meal served after the lesson ends. Most schools offer a glass or two of wine with the meal, which creates a social occasion.

More serious “foodies” prefer learning by cooking under the direction of experts during daylong or weeklong courses.

A few schools even offer cooking classes for children. In France, children are taught about food and nourishment from an early age. Let’s hope this generation isn’t relegated to thinking McDo’s qualifies as gourmet…

The following schools are some of the better-known options today, but they are by no means the only culinary training options. Most offer different courses depending on your interests and skill level. Some include trips to farmers markets, artisan boulangeries, pâtisseries and chocolate boutiques, for example.

L’atelier des Chefs

This began in 2004 almost like “speed cuisine” where people gathered to cook lunch or dinner before eating the three-course meal prepared by the group. Lunch classes were short so participants could return to the office before the boss complained

Although classes are presented in French, there’s usually an English speaker on hand to translate. Today classes range from 30 minutes to four hours in length. Instructors include a large team of professional chefs from respected restaurants at the Paris Ritz, Hôtel Bristol, Laserre and so on. Their “quick classes” caught on and classes are now held throughout France and in London and Dubai. They also lead informal demonstration courses at Paris department stores like BHV.

La Cuisine

This is one of the newest schools where you learn to cook while having fun with terrific people. Jane and Olivier, who own the school, share the philosophy that students should feel at home. Classes are held in their two modern kitchens near Hôtel de Ville. Students choose from a wide variety of international, organic and French-themed classes taught in English or French to a maximum of 12 students. One popular class features a trip to a Paris market, where the chef-instructor helps students select meal ingredients later prepared and enjoyed by the group back at the school. La Cuisine also caters to private groups, so if you and a group of friends want to cook ensemble, contact the school and get ready to cook a meal you’ll later enjoy together. A few of us took a chocolate dessert class and nearly went into sugar shock but it was worth the pleasure. The school is kind enough to offer BonjourParis premium members a 10% discount. Merci.

Le Cordon Bleu student   photo courtesy of le Cordon BleuLe Cordon Bleu Paris

World-renowned Le Cordon Bleu offers a variety of classes perfect for traveling food enthusiasts, including demonstrations and “hands on” classes tailored to fit your schedule and abilities. For those with the serious desire, ability, time and money to become a professional chef, Le Cordon Bleu is the world’s premier culinary arts institute. For over 100 years their students have been put through the paces and served internships at some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants. Many instructors and graduates possess Michelin stars. Students come from different counties and may have been sent by their employers to learn haute cuisine. Classes are taught in French but there are always English and Japanese translators. Children’s lessons are available; check the current catalogue for options and book early as they sell out months in advance.

Paule Caillat

Ms. Caillat is an experienced cooking instructor and culinary expert with an engaging personality that makes her a hit with students and international media. She teaches a maximum of eight students at a time in her custom-designed over-the-top kitchen of her Marais apartment. Born in France, she was educated in the U.S. She believes “the product is the star” and the French terroir inspires her course offerings. She never compromises quality and is ever on the hunt for the best ingredients to be found in Paris. Ms. Caillat offers classical cooking classes plus gourmet walking tours that show a slice of Parisian life. Sessions are technique-oriented and students who complete a full-day total cooking immersion experience speak highly of her classes.

Ritz Escoffier Cooking School

Even if you can’t afford to stay at the Ritz Paris, you may put on the Ritz at their cooking classes for amateurs and professionals. The Ritz kitchens are more than elegant (as is the hotel) and some students claim a bit of its glamour rubs off on them. If you’re taking a pastry course in its dedicated kitchen, don’t be surprised if one of the dining room’s pâtisserie chefs shows up to share techniques and baking secrets. The school has the very best professional equipment and an extensive culinary-themed library students may use. Popular “Ritz Kids” workshops for children 6-12 years of age sell out months in advance.

Cooking with Patricia Wells

Patricia Wells is more than a teacher; today she’s more akin to an institution. She’s a former International Herald Tribune restaurant critic and author of 12 popular culinary-themed books. Her classes were formerly held exclusively in Provence in Vaison-la-Romaine, but she now offers a series in her Paris cooking studio on the rue Jacob in the 6th. Patricia and Walter Wells meticulously restored an artist’s atelier and intentionally designed an ideal place to learn not only about food preparation, but also to see the culinary glory of Paris through Patricia’s eyes and sensibilities. Classes, which sell out fast, last five days and are geared to Americans who want to “share Patricia’s private food world.”

Don’t hesitate to add schools you’ve discovered in Paris; there are so many. Many are excellent, some are for people who want a quick how-to-make-a-meal, some are concentrated total immersion courses and others schools target those willing to go all out in the pursuit of becoming a professional chef.

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