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Start with cooking lessons in France and maybe become a Chef

Maybe you're dreaming of taking cooking classes during your trip to Paris. What a great idea!

We have great schools that will provide you the cooking skills that you need to prepare those delicious dishes that will make your friends want to be invited for dinner every weekend.

Before we go into our recommendations we would love to share with you the stories of two US citizens who lived in France and took cooking so seriously that they were willing to confront the challenges of professional training, which here are serious.

First is Julia Child: in her book, My Life in France, co-authored with Alex Prud’homme, she describes her first meal in a French restaurant in Rouen in 1948, where she ate oysters and sole meunière and knew right away that she had to learn how to prepare food that tasted that good. So she enrolled in l’École du Cordon Bleu in Paris, but made the mistake of signing up for the year-long course rather than the six-week. She noticed two things right away: she was the only woman in the class and the other eleven students were also from the USA (GI’s). There were no French students in the class: neither men or women. In her book she describes her unpleasant encounter with Madame Brassart (school director), who told her she didn’t understand why she would waste her time and theirs because Americans don’t know how to cook. The excellence of the instruction she received from the chef and instructor Max Bugnard more than made up for the unpleasantness of Madame Brassart.

Julia Child went on to have a television show in the US, « The French Chef, » which was interesting because she was neither French nor a chef. She also authored eleven cookbooks.

So why would the French not consider her a chef? She had never been one: she was a cookbook author who had a TV show. Most importantly, she did not follow the rigorous system of apprenticeships that all chefs go through in order to move up the ranks and become a chef de cuisine.

For us Julia Child could be considered the first cooking influencer in the world who encouraged American women to learn a new cuisine that at the time was thought to be only for the elite.

Our second cooking enthusiast is Bill Buford, someone who wanted to learn what it took to become a French chef.

For anyone interested in understanding the difference between taking cooking classes and becoming a French chef, I highly recommend his book, Dirt. The following text is taken from its cover:

"At first, Bill Buford (beloved best-selling author of Heat, thinks that in order to learn the fundamentals, a little time working in a restaurant, and then perhaps a few months in France, should be enough. He persuades the revered French chef Michel Richard in Washington, D.C. to take him on, but then — after quickly realizing that working in a kitchen in France is indispensable — he rashly and rather radically moves to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France…with his wife and three-year-old twin sons. He meets Bob, proprietor of Lyon’s best boulangerie (bakery), becomes his apprentice, and learns how to make bread. He studies at the legendary L’institut Paul Bocuse. He cooks at the storied, Michelin-starred La Mère Brazier and endures the endless hours and exacting rigeur of the kitchen. Weeks turn into months, seasons go by and turn into a five-year digression from normal life, all in pursuit of the answer to one question: What makes French cooking, well, French? "

Eliot with his Poisson Boulangère

As you can see there are many different stories about cooking in France, and you can have your own. For this reason we have reviewed and described some of them for you to have an entry level cooking class during your stay in Paris. (If your hope is to become a Chef, please know that you better move to France and do a proper training program that includes instruction in the top schools and apprenticeship in restaurants.)

L’Ecole du Cordon Bleu — Founded in 1895, they offer year long diploma granting courses for professionals and one or two day workshops for food enthusiasts. Their workshops emphasize pastry making, but also include sauces and jus, and provencal cooking. Their website shows them to be a lot friendlier than when Julia Child enrolled there in 1948. They even list her as one of their success stories!

Ritz Escoffier Cours de Cuisine — The Ritz Hotel at one time was famous for having been liberated at the end of World War II by Ernest Hemingway and his private militia. It is a five star (Palais) hotel located in the place Vendome. Their cooking school offers 3 and 4 day workshops in pastry making, cocktails, healthy cuisine, etc.

La Cuisine Paris — Located on the quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, across the Seine from Notre Dame, the school offers classes in pastry making, sauces, or a dish accompanied by a market tour to decide what to cook that day.

La Cuisine Paris, 80 quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, Parus 4. Metro: Pont Marie, line 7.

Le Foodist — In addition to offering cooking classes for pastries, le Foodist offers a class for either a three-course lunch or a four-course dinner, both with an optional market tour. Located near the Panthéon.

Cook’n with Class — Located in Montmartre, they provide market tours and instruction in sauces, macarons, French desserts, bread baking, and croissants accompanied by a market tour to select the day’s ingredients.

Cook’n with Class, 6 rue Baudelique, Paris 18. Metro: Simplon, Line 4.

L’ Atelier des Chefs — Located in several sites in Paris and in other French cities, L’Atelier des Chefs offers courses from 30 minutes to 4 hours. French cuisine lessons cover topics such as a bistro lunch, pastry, sauce techniques and shopping at an outdoor food market. Current non-French classes include a Japanese menu and Indonesian fish curry.


Your first cooking lesson is offered by Eliot! Learn how to make Chicken Marengo and join us in this experience:

Bon appétit!

Eliot & Pamela

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